NHS fighting back against rising tide of gambling ill health

The NHS is facing a rising tide of gambling related ill health as more betting addicts than ever before are being taken to hospital.

New data released today show a record number of admissions last year related to gambling addiction, including care for severe mental ill health conditions like psychosis.

The number of gambling related hospital admissions has more than doubled in the last six years from 150 to 321.

Cases of pathological gambling, where people turn to crime to fund their addiction has increased by a third in the last 12 months, bringing the total to 171.

The steady rise in admissions has prompted the NHS to commit to opening 14 new problem gambling clinics by 2023/24, alongside the first ever gambling clinic aimed at young people earlier this year as part of its Long Term Plan.

Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director for the NHS said: “Our NHS is fighting back against a rising tide of gambling related ill health as more people than ever before are being egged-on by shameless gambling firms not just to take a chance with their money, but with their health too.

“While the NHS will always be there for people – adapting, improving and increasing different and new treatments as our patients need them as part of our Long Term Plan – the gambling industry, which takes upward of £14 billion a year from punters, must take the blame for this increase and ensure a fair amount of its profits help its customers who may suffer from addiction.”

A person affected by gambling related harm addiction has an intense desire to bet that interferes with their day-to-day lives.

171 patients were admitted for ‘pathological gaming’ last year, where a patient’s addiction to gambling is so severe that it can lead them to crime.

The NHS estimates that over 400,000 people in England have an addiction to gambling and two million people are at risk of developing the condition.

There has also been an increase in the number of young people that are affected by gambling related harm.

46 people under the age of 25 attended a hospital as a result of their addiction last year, with one person as young as 15 receiving treatment, compared to 37 people under 25 receiving treatment the year before – an increase of a quarter.

NHS Digital data published earlier this month found that more than half of people living in Britain gamble.

Research has shown betting firms spent an estimated £1.5 billion in 2017 on marketing ads, while a report in the British Medical Journal called for the introduction of a mandatory tax on the industry to fund and prioritise treatment.

Bookmakers are currently encouraged by the Gambling Commission to donate a combined £10 million to charities which help victims of gambling addictions – just 0.07% of what gambling companies currently receive from punters.