NHS to break funding ties with GambleAware


Under the heading ‘NHS stops taking gambling funds to treat addiction’, the BBC has today (19 February 2022) reported that NHS England national mental health director Claire Murdoch has written a letter to GambleAware in which she states that, with effect from 1 April this year, the NHS will reject further funding from GambleAware and instead fund its own gambling services.

The BBC report indicates that, in making this decision:

  • Murdoch acknowledges that industry funding “has allowed [the NHS] to roll out treatment services faster than would have otherwise been possible”,
  • her decision has been “heavily influenced” by NHS patients being “uncomfortable about using services paid for by the gambling industry … and additionally clinicians feel there are conflicts of interest in their clinics being part-funded by resources from the gambling industry”.

It adds that in her letter, Murdoch has said that:

  • “the health service cannot address the ‘harms brought by gambling alone, and neither is it the NHS’s ‘job’ to do so” and
  • “the NHS would continue to work closely with GambleAware to develop a treatment system that is fit for purpose”.

This news comes less than two weeks after GambleAware published a full list of the donations and pledges (totalling £16 million) that it had received during the first three quarters of the financial year 2021-22, commenting (on 8 February) on its website as follows:

Currently, under guidance by the Gambling Commission to deliver the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, GambleAware asks all those who profit from gambling in Britain to make a minimum annual donation of 0.1% of their Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) direct to the charity.

GambleAware continues to call for a mandatory levy to address gambling harms and ensure transparency and consistency across the industry. Having such a system in place would provide the sustainable funding which is vital for the delivery of research, treatment and prevention.

All funds donated to GambleAware go towards activity which is delivered against the charity’s four commissioning objectives, and is supportive of a collaborative, whole-system approach to the prevention of gambling harms.

GambleAware’s vision is for a society safe from gambling harms. To achieve this, the charity is currently delivery more than 40 workstreams of work against each commissioning objective. This activity includes services and programmes of work, including the National Gambling Treatment Service, Annual Treatment and Support Survey and Gambling Education Hubs.

GambleAware has a robust, independent and accountable system of governance process and procedures in place. The charity is also guided by a Board of trustees which is entirely independent of the gambling industry and the majority of whom work in public health, including the NHS. These assurances are in place to ensure the gambling industry has absolutely no influence over any of GambleAware’s commissioning activity.

Particularly in view of what is said in the final paragraph quoted above (with our added emphasis), many may feel that the NHS decision to reject further funding from GambleAware represents a retrograde step.

In light of today’s news, it remains to be seen to what extent the National Gambling Treatment Service will continue to work with, and alongside, the National Health Service.

UPDATES:

1. You can now download below a copy of the above-mentioned letter from Claire Murdoch to GambleAware.

2.  On 21 February 2022, it was announced that, in May this year, the NHS is set to open two new clinics in England (in Southampton and Stoke-on-Trent) to help tackle the growing problem and health side effects of gambling addictions, Claire Murdoch being quoted as saying:

Gambling addiction is a cruel mental health condition that can devastate people’s lives – our pilot clinics are already having a lasting impact in helping people to take back vital control of their lives. The opening of two new gambling clinics in May, as a part of our £2.3 billion investment into mental health services, will mean we can help even more people with the most serious gambling problems. It is also absolutely right that the NHS now funds these clinics independently, recognising the harmful effects this addiction can have on the nation’s mental health, and that predatory tactics from gambling companies are part of the problem, not the solution.

 

Download article PDF: NHS letter to Gambleaware 18.02.22