Claire Murdoch, national mental health director for NHS England, says the public sector is left to “pick up the pieces” of gambling harm – and criticised the current voluntary funding system.
The director claims 750 people have been referred to specialist clinics for treatment of serious addiction since April 2020 – while accusing gambling businesses of continuing to benefit from a splurge in play during the pandemic.
However, the latest data shows gambling participation is actually down through the last year, with just 0.4 percent of the population taking up gambling, and 2.1 percent giving it up.
“After seeing the destruction the gambling industry has caused to young people in this country, it is clear that firms are focused on profit at the expense of people’s health, while the NHS is increasingly left to pick up the pieces,” she said.
“In a year when the NHS has dealt with our biggest challenge yet in Covid-19, the health service’s psychologists and nurses having been treating hundreds of people with severe gambling addictions.
“The gambling industry must take more responsibility, as the nation has come together over the last year to support the NHS, whether it be volunteering as vaccinators or showing their gratitude to staff. The bookmakers must also step up and agree to a mandatory levy to pay for dealing with the harms of problem gambling.”
In 2019 the top UK firms agreed to increase their contributions to research and treatment to £100m by 2023.