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The NHS has severed ties with the GambleAware charity over concerns over its ties to the gambling industry.

Announcing two new clinics to deal with record demand for gambling addiction services in England, NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch denounced the ‘predatory tactics’ of gambling companies.

The decision comes as the health service begins to distance itself from an industry that officials say is causing serious damage to the nation’s mental health.

“Gaming addiction is a cruel mental health issue that can devastate people’s lives,” Murdoch said. “It is also only right that the NHS now funds these clinics independently, recognizing the harmful effects this addiction can have, and that the predatory tactics of gaming companies are part of the problem, not the solution.”

NHS sever ties with GambleAware over industry connection issues |  Gambling
Claire Murdoch, director of mental health at the NHS.

According to figures from NHS England, 668 people with serious addiction problems were referred to gambling clinics between April and December last year, a 16.2% increase on the previous year. 575 referrals made during the same period in 2020.

Writing separately to GambleAware CEO Zoë Osmond, Murdoch said the decision was made after weighing complaints from patients and doctors.

“Our decision was heavily influenced by patients who have previously expressed concern about the use of services paid for directly by industry,” she wrote. “Furthermore, our clinicians believe there are conflicts of interest in having their clinics partially funded by gaming industry resources.”

GambleAware, which describes itself as “an independent, grant-making charity, commander of prevention and treatment services” is funded almost entirely by donations from the gambling industry.

Last year it announced a three-year funding deal with the UK’s four biggest games companies for a total of £100m. It has previously been criticized for having too much influence over funding research and treatment for gambling addiction.

NHS England has had a ‘dual commissioning and funding’ deal with GambleAware since 2019, with £1.2m a year for the National Gambling Treatment Service, which currently operates five clinics in London, Leeds, Manchester and Sunderland as well as a national helpline. .

The two new clinics, due to open in Southampton and Stoke-on-Trent, are now to be fully funded by the Health Service, part of a £2.3billion increase in mental health spending allowed by the government.

Murdoch wrote to Osmond that the NHS remained “committed to maintaining a constructive operational relationship with GambleAware”.

In a statement to the Guardian, Osmond said: ‘There could be up to 2.9 million people in Britain at risk of harm to gambling and we welcome NHS England’s commitment to open two new gambling clinics. NHS-funded gambling harm treatment.

“Gambling is a serious public health issue that requires a collaborative approach, involving the third sector and the NHS within a cohesive system of care. We look forward to continuing to work with NHS England and helping them provide an integrated solution to prevent and treat gambling harm.

“The charity has strong governance processes in place to ensure that the gaming industry has absolutely no influence on our work.

“We are also accountable to the Charity Commission and the Gambling Commission, who fully endorse the activity and governance structure of the charity, while working to implement the national strategy to reduce the harms of Game.”

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