The NHS is facing a rising tide of gambling-related ill health as more betting addicts are being admitted to hospital.
The NHS estimates more than 400,000 people in England have an addiction to gambling and two million people are at risk of developing the condition.
According to data released by NHS England, the number of gambling-related hospital admissions, including care for severe mental health conditions like psychosis, has more than doubled in the last six years from 150 to 321,
An NHS spokesman said 171 people were admitted for ‘pathological gaming’ last year, an increase of a third, where a patient’s addiction to gambling is so severe that it can lead them to crime.
While 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.
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 £14bn 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.’
An NHS England spokesman said betting firms spent an estimated £1.5bn 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 £10m to charities which help victims of gambling addictions – just 0.07% of what gambling companies currently receive from punters.
Photo Credit – Pixa Bay