Health service is ‘catching the tab’ over surge in gambling addicts, says senior doctor
- NHS has to ‘foot the tab’ for surge in gambling addicts attending A&E
- There is a 42% annual increase in demand for NHS gambling clinics filled with young men.
- Psychologist Matthew Gaskell says ‘young men in football shirts’ affected
- NHS chief Claire Murdoch said businesses should “think about the human cost”
Doctors have warned of an increase in the number of gambling addicts turning to A&E, leaving the NHS to “foot the bill”.
More patients are seeking help after losing all their money on online gambling sprees, doctors say.
The figures also show a 42 per cent annual increase in demand for NHS betting clinics which are full of “young people in football shirts” who have fallen out of favor with the “predatory tactics” of betting companies.
Health chiefs have now urged the gaming giants to “think hard about the human cost behind their profits.”
More patients go to the ER after losing all their money in online gambling sprees (file image)
“There has been an increase in the number of people coming to A&E in crisis, in a state of suicide,” said Matthew Gaskell, a consultant psychologist with the NHS Northern Gambling Service.
Almost 600 patients have been referred to NHS clinics in the last six months, an increase of 42 percent on the same period last year and 65 percent more than in 2020-21, according to figures seen by The Times.
Matthew Gaskell, consultant psychologist for the NHS Northern Gambling Service, said: ‘People start gambling as soon as they wake up in the morning; they are playing in the shower, playing while driving to work. The NHS is footing the bill. There has been an increase in people who go to the ER in crisis, in a state of suicide.
“One of the first things I noticed was that the groups were full of young people wearing football jerseys,” Gaskell said. That hasn’t stopped.
He suggested that surgeries GPs should routinely ask new patients if they gambled.
Claire Murdoch, director of mental health for England’s NHS, said: “Companies involved in activities that fuel addiction should think hard about the human cost that may be behind their profits.”
The North of England has the highest proportion of gamblers at risk, with 4.4% of adults in the North West and 4.9% in the North East having the highest risk of addiction.
Overall, it is estimated that around 0.5 per cent of the UK adult population, around 246,000 people, are likely to have some form of gambling addiction and 2.2 million are at risk.
The industry profits in excess of £14 billion a year from gambling in the UK.
Earlier this year the NHS stopped receiving cash from the gambling industry for the treatment of people suffering from addiction.
Accounts for the charity GambleAware show it raised £16 million between April and December last year in voluntary donations from the gaming industry to fund a variety of treatment services.
These include NHS gambling clinics, which received £1.2m in 2020/21.
General voluntary pledges to GambleAware last year included £1m from William Hill, just over £4m from Bet365 and £4m from Entain.
Treatment for gambling addiction on the NHS usually includes cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to change the way people think and about problems, and therefore how they behave.
In England, people seeking help with their gambling can turn to the National Problem Gambling Clinic.