A Game-Changer for Wales: University Calls for NHS Gambling Harms Services
In response to the increase in referrals to NHS gambling harms clinics in England, academics at Swansea University have called for similar NHS gambling services to be available in Wales.
No support in Wales
In 2022, there were 1400 referrals to NHS gambling harms clinics in England, which increased from previous years. To support such gambling issues in England, there are plans for 15 new clinics to open. However, there are no NHS gambling harms clinics in Wales or Scotland. And there are no plans to open any.
In Wales, the only support for gambling is via third-party companies, like Gambler’s Anonymous. However, as is the case in England, gambling issues are not limited to urban areas. Therefore, those in rural areas may not be able to access Gambler’s Anonymous meetings, leaving them vulnerable and without easily accessible support.
Swansea University’s School of Psychology, in accordance with the Gambling Research, Education and Treatment (GREAT) network Wales, highlighted that research shows that individuals in Wales are as much at risk of harms from gambling as the rest of the UK.
According to Professor Simon Dymond of Swansea University and Director of GREAT Network Wales, "The time is long overdue for Wales to be on a par with the support and treatment services available for those experiencing gambling harms in England. Indeed, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that people with high gambling severity should seek treatment and support from NHS-commissioned specialist gambling treatment services. Such an option is not currently available for the people of Wales."
He added, "In 2020, we showed that the need for NHS-commissioned gambling harms services in Wales was stark. We hope that the proposed introduction of a statutory levy will provide a potential means of funding this essential service, but we shouldn't wait for that to happen. We need NHS investment in gambling harms services for Wales, now."
A health needs assessment
To encourage support in Wales, Public Health Wales commissioned a health needs assessment. The results highlight the lack of accessibility to gambling treatment and a lack of awareness and provision. It showed that many individuals who do require gambling support, are not aware of the support available through third-party providers or charities and those who did know about support may not be accessing them due to a feeling of shame or gambling stigma.
And that’s where an additional problem lies; it’s difficult to understand the true figures around gambling needs support in Wales if not enough support is offered. In 2021/22, 7,072 individuals were helped by the National Gambling Treatment Service in Great Britain. 4% of these individuals were residents of Wales. However, it’s unknown how many others in Wales require support for gambling but do not come forward to seek help.