New gambling addiction clinic opens in the Midlands to meet record demand

A new gambling clinic will open in the Midlands as the NHS works to meet record demand for specialist support for gambling addiction.

The new clinic based in Stoke-On-Trent will open from May and will join seven other specialist clinics in place across England in London, Leeds, Manchester, Sunderland, and Southampton. A national children and young person’s pilot clinic will also inform the rollout of further gambling clinics when the services are evaluated later this year.

In the Midlands, Stoke-on-Trent has high levels of gambling participation. Gambling related harm affects people’s finances, relationships, mental and physical health, employment and education.  It often has links to criminal and anti-social behaviour, with research showing that harmful gambling is associated with people who are unemployed and among people living in more deprived areas.

Between April and December last year, 668 people with the most severe gambling addiction issues were referred to NHS gambling clinics – up from 575 during the same period in 2020 – a 16.2% increase.

News of the new clinic for Stoke-on-Trent follows a letter from NHS mental health chief Claire Murdoch to GambleAware, confirming that the NHS will be fully funding its own gambling services from April.

Research published by Public Health England (now the UK Health Security Agency) last September estimated around 0.5% of the adult population, around 246,000 people, are likely to have some form of gambling addiction with around 2.2 million people either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction.

An anonymous patient who has benefitted from and used the service said: “The service has been absolutely fantastic. I felt like they really cared and understood my circumstances and my life has been changed for the better. I would highly recommend this to anyone that needed this service and would like to thank everyone for their amazing work and difference that you are all making within society.”

Giles Tinsley, Programme Director for Mental Health at NHS England and NHS Improvement in the Midlands, said: “Gambling addiction is a cruel mental health condition that can devastate people’s lives. The opening of the new gambling clinic here in the Midlands in May, as a part of our national £2.3 billion investment into mental health services, will mean we can help even more people with the most serious gambling problems.

“It is also absolutely right that the NHS now funds these clinics independently, recognising the harmful effects this addiction can have on the nation’s mental health.”

Stoke based GP Anwar Tufail said: “As a GP, when a patient expresses specific areas that they require help with such as a gambling addiction, it can be challenging to find the appropriate service to get the right help.

“The gambling clinic will assist GPs and Primary Care Practitioners to help their patients in the best way possible.

“With this clinic and the ability to refer direct to this service, it will enable the patients to get the right support they need immediately. As a GP I welcome this service and I look forward to working with the team to support our patients”.

Later this year the NHS will launch a new Gambling Harm Network and Clinical Reference Group, which will bring expertise together and enable clinical teams to share best practices for helping to treat gambling addiction.

Gambling addiction if it takes hold can destroy lives. Danny Humes, Head of Inclusion, at the Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Often people who are experiencing harm from gambling can go unnoticed or not feel able to engage with support and treatment due to concerns related to the stigma that can surround addiction.

“We can assure our communities that the service we provide will be confidential, non-judgemental and will provide access to highly skilled clinicians who can help those affected by problematic gambling.

“We will be working with existing Voluntary Sector treatment providers and hope this service broadens access to those who need treatment.”

Patients will be able to self-refer via an online portal once the clinic has opened. In the meantime, if you or someone you know has a gambling addiction, the National Gambling Helpline offers free and confidential advice.