Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Gambling clinic opens amid record demand for help – BBC News

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Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, The head of the NHS in England says access to treatment for gambling addiction is more important than ever

A new gambling clinic has opened in Sheffield city centre amid “record demand” for help.

The NHS treatment centre will provide clinical psychologists, therapists and peer support to its users.

The Sheffield clinic is the last of 15 new services to open in England, which will treat up to 3,000 people a year.

She told BBC Radio Sheffield: “The clinics are just brilliant, treatment works.”

Mrs Ritchie added that the NHS had “really stepped up” in creating the clinics, seven of which have opened in the past year.

However, she argued that prevention and education was key to tackling gambling addiction, which she said was “highly-correlated with suicide”.

Image source, Gambling With Lives

Image caption, Charles and Liz Ritchie, from Sheffield, set up the charity Gambling with Lives following the death of their son Jack

“I think Charles [her husband] and I felt compelled to warn other families,” Mrs Ritchie said.

“We didn’t know how serious gambling addiction could be and that it is so highly-correlated with suicide.

“Jack didn’t know that when he went into the bookies, right by school in the middle of Sheffield, that there was almost a one-in-two chance of being addicted.”

Her 24-year-old son died in Vietnam in 2017 after years of battling a gambling addiction.

His death inspired Mr and Mrs Ritchie to campaign for change in the gambling industry and set up the charity Gambling with Lives.

If you’ve been affected by the issues in this story, help and support is available via the BBC Action Line

Dr Matt Gaskell, the head of the Northern Gambling Service, also highlighted the need for prevention.

“We need to get this out in the open much earlier, rather than waiting until everything falls apart,” he said.

“We do need much earlier intervention and we do need the operators, and even the banks, to recognise harm much earlier because all of these transactions are monitored.”

He said the clinics were funded by the NHS, which would not be able to afford more if they were needed in future.

“The good news is treatment and support is now available across the region but that can’t be the answer, we have to work on prevention,” he added.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said referrals for gambling addiction services continued to “rapidly increase” and it was right to increase the support in line with demand.

“The opening of the new NHS gambling clinic is a significant milestone and amid record demand for help, it is timely for patients who desperately need this vital treatment,” she said.

“The £1bn gambling industry, which operates 24/7, is becoming more addictive, and with mainstream sporting events driving increasing numbers to problem gambling, it’s now more important than ever that people have access to treatment that adapts to their healthcare needs.”

People over the age of 18 could self-enrol or could be referred to the Sheffield clinic through their GP.

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