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The first gambling clinic for children will be opened by the NHS this year, it has been announced.
An expansion to services at The National Problem Gambling Clinic in South-West London will mean that young people aged 13 to 25 will receive face-to-face treatment for their gambling problems.
According to the Gambling Commission the number of children aged 11-16 classed as having a gambling problem stands at 55,000, a figure which has grown significantly over the past two years.
In its Young People and Gambling report – published last year – the industry regulator also revealed that 13 per cent of 11-16 year olds have played online-gambling style games, 3 per cent admitted to playing on fruit machines in pubs, clubs or arcades while 66 per cent had seen gambling advertising on TV.
Funded by NHS England the clinic forms part of the NHS Long Term Plan, which looks at measures to ‘future-proof the NHS for the decade ahead’.
Commenting Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, 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.’
Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, added: ‘Protecting people, and particularly children, from gambling-related harm is vital. I have seen first hand the important work that these specialist clinics do and I am pleased that the NHS is expanding its support for young people.’
Earlier this year research conducted by online age verification organisation AgeChecked showed that parents were becoming increasingly concerned about their children accessing online gambling platforms.
It’s also been revealed that as many as 14 new NHS clinics are being opened – starting with the NHS Northern Gambling Service in Leeds this summer, followed by Manchester and Sunderland.
After being referred to the ‘specialist, evidence-based services’ patients ‘whose lives are being wrecked by severe or complex issues with gambling’ will work with a team of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.