Gambling clinic to open in Sunderland and betting firms could be forced to foot the bill
The North East is to get its own gambling clinic as the NHS launches a service to help both adults and children with addictions.
Sunderland has been chosen as one of 14 key locations by NHS England as it launches a new programme of care, with the clinics to initially focus on adult care as they launch over coming months.
It comes as NHS England said there was growing concern online gaming sites and targeted adverts are fuelling addiction, including among children.
The service will include treatment for 13 to 25-year-olds based at the UK's only dedicated gambling addiction centre, the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London.
The NHS Northern Gambling Service will open in Leeds this summer, followed by the other clinics including Sunderland’s.
The outpatient clinics will be staffed by psychiatrists and clinical psychologists and can accept referrals from around the country.
The Gambling Commission estimates there are 55,000 children and young people aged 11 to 16 with a gambling problem, of which 450,000 are gambling regularly.
The head of the NHS has also said betting firms could be taxed to pay for addiction treatment as he launched the service to help children with gambling problems.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: "The links between problem gambling and stress, depression and mental health problems are growing and there are too many stories of lives lost and families destroyed.
"This action shows just how seriously the NHS takes the threat of gambling addiction, even in young people, but we need to be clear - tackling mental ill health caused by addiction is everyone's responsibility - especially those firms that directly contribute to the problem.”
Gambling firms have offered to increase contributions to help problem gamblers but the Gambling Commission says a mandatory system would increase funding from about £12 million to at least £70 million a year.
A Gambling Commission report published last winter found 14% of 11 to 16-year-olds had spent their own money on gambling in the previous week, spending on average £16 each.
Types of betting included a bet for money or cards with friends, scratchcards and fruit/slot machines.
The Remote Gambling Association has said it supports the new clinics, which it says will supplement exisiting charitable services.