Seven new gambling addiction clinics will open this summer as NHS services face record demand, chief executive Amanda Pritchard announced.
The NHS said it was “adapting to new healthcare needs” and rapidly expanding the support services for thousands of people experiencing gambling-related harms.
New figures published reveal that around 1400 patients were referred for help last year, an increase of more than a third on the previous 12 months and up by almost four fifths compared to two years ago.
The seven new clinics are in Milton Keynes, Thurrock, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Blackpool and Sheffield.
There are already eight gambling harms clinics open in London, Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Telford, as well as an additional national clinic, which treats both gambling and gaming addiction in children and young people, in London.
The NHS plans to treat up to 3000 patients a year across the 15 clinics, fulfilling the NHS Long Term Plan commitment six months ahead of schedule.
NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “This expansion shows the NHS once again adapting to the new healthcare needs that have emerged over the last 75 years.
“In 1948 when the NHS was founded, you had to go to a bookies to place a bet, but now people can gamble on their phone at the touch of a button and everyone, young and old, is bombarded with adverts encouraging them to take part.
“Record numbers of people are coming to the NHS for help to treat their gambling addiction, a cruel disease which has the power to destroy people’s lives, with referrals up by more than a third compared to last year.
“As it has done since 1948, the NHS is responding at speed and rolling out seven new gambling harms clinics across England, so that even more people can be supported by the NHS in their time of need.”
Around 138,000 people could be problem gambling according to Gambling Commission figures, with around a further 1.3 million people engaging in either moderate or low-risk gambling – although other research estimates that this figure could be higher.
One patient who received help from the Northern Gambling Harms Service, said: “Gambling addiction took over my life to the extent I was suicidal and relationships with my family and friends had broken down. Engaging with NHS services has helped me get control of my life back and I’m rebuilding trust with my family and friends, once again having happy and healthy relationships with people close to me.”
The latest clinics will treat people with serious addiction issues through cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy, support groups and aftercare.
NHS teams including psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses and peer support workers also offer support to patients’ family members, partners and carers.
NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch said: “Addiction is a cruel disease that can take over and ruin lives, whether it be destroying finances or ruining relationships, but the NHS is here to help, so if you or someone you know is struggling with gambling addiction please come forward.
“Although progress has been made on clamping down on this billion-pound industry with the Government’s White Paper, I hope further action can be taken to protect our young people and future generations from being bombarded by gambling advertisement while watching sport.”
Public Health Minister Neil O’ Brien said: “The stark rise in the number of people seeking NHS treatment for gambling-related harms shows the devastating impact it can have on people’s lives and health.
“These new clinics will bring vital support to more parts of the country, so thousands more people can get the help they need. We have taken firm action to tackle gambling-related harms through our White Paper, which includes our commitment to introduce a statutory levy so gambling companies pay their fair share towards the costs of treatment services.”