'Structural Issues' Hamper English Gambling Treatment Services

March 11, 2024
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The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care has said gambling treatment services in England are improving, but warned structural issues mean many recommended changes will require increased strategic focus and resource allocation.
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The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said gambling treatment services in England are improving, but warned structural issues mean many recommended changes will require increased strategic focus and resource allocation.

The findings come from the DHSC-led Office for Health Improvement and Disparities’ (OHID) assessment of the adult gambling treatment system in England published on March 7.

Some of the recommendations “can be achieved at commissioning and service level”, according to the OHID.

These include changes addressing the funding model, integrating gambling treatment with existing services and providing services that fit the needs of different populations, such as women and ethnic minority groups.

“However, there are structural issues in the gambling treatment system, and improvements will be difficult to achieve within the treatment system alone. They require increased strategic focus, resource allocation and prevention activity,” according to the OHID’s conclusion.

Areas in need of improvement include treatment data collection and reporting, the structure of the gambling treatment model and referral pathways, better coordination in the gambling treatment system, improving awareness of gambling harm and available support, and the need for more research on the impacts of different gambling treatments, it said.

Public bodies and treatment providers will be informed of the assessment to support changes to the treatment system, according to the report.

When it comes to the UK government’s plans to introduce a statutory levy, the OHID suggests it could learn lessons from other countries that have introduced similar gambling levies, such as New Zealand.

The assessment also praised the experience and dedication of staff working in the treatment system, a wide range of treatment options and an increasing priority to treat gambling as a public health issue.

At the time of the assessment, there were 18 different gambling treatment providers in England spread around 52 locations, with an additional 173 peer support service locations. 

Since then, five NHS adult gambling treatment clinics have opened, with another three expected to open this month.

A day before the assessment's publication, gambling minister Stuart Andrew gave an update on the progress of the Gambling Act white paper at the Gambling with Lives Parliamentary Forum.

During his speech, he reassured that the statutory levy is not just about reforming the funding mechanism despite increased investment in the system being “crucial”.

“The levy will allow the development of an integrated and comprehensive treatment system across Great Britain in the coming years to improve referral pathways between NHS and third sector provided services,” Andrew said.

The OHID committed to undertaking this first-of-its-kind assessment in the Gambling Act white paper with the intention of the findings being used to improve the treatment system.

Findings from the assessment were gathered from gambling treatment and National Gambling Helpline data for 2021 to 2022, responses from questionnaires to gambling treatment providers, interviews of treatment stakeholders, and conducting “deep dives” into five local authorities that were willing and could participate.

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