NHS will no longer use gaming industry funds to pay for addiction treatment
The NHS has also announced two new gambling clinics will open in England this year as the health service faces a record demand for specialist addiction support. The hubs are set to launch in Southampton and Stoke-On-Trent.
The NHS is set to stop taking money from the gambling industry for addiction treatments as it faces record demand for its specialist support.
The health service's national mental health director, Claire Murdoch, has written to the grant-making charity GambleAware to say the NHS will be fully funding its own gambling services across England from 1 April.
She said the decision had been "heavily influenced" by patients who were uncomfortable about using services paid for by the industry.
"Additionally, our clinicians feel there are conflicts of interest in their clinics being part-funded by resources from the gambling industry," Ms Murdoch added.
GambleAware accounts show it collected £16m between April and December last year in voluntary donations from the gambling industry to fund treatments, including £1.2m which was given to NHS specialist clinics.
The industry makes profits of more than £14bn a year from gambling in the UK.
Ms Murdoch's letter stated that while industry funding has allowed the NHS to roll out services "faster than would have otherwise been possible", there is still a desire to pay for them using general funding.
"The NHS cannot address the harms caused by gambling alone, nor is it the NHS's job to tackle this on its own," she wrote.
"We are therefore committed to maintaining a constructive operational relationship with GambleAware as this change is implemented and continuing to work together on developing a treatment system that is fit for purpose."
She added that the NHS would like to see the industry take "firm action" so that people do not need to seek help from the health service, calling for the industry to be "more heavily regulated and taxed".
Two new clinics launched as demand for support rises
The move comes as the NHS faces record demand for support, with the latest data showing a 16.2% increase in referrals to gambling clinics last year.
Between April and December, 668 people with the most severe gambling addiction issues were referred to the clinics - up from 575 in the same period in 2020.
Overall, it is estimated that around 0.5% of the UK adult population, around 246,000 people, are likely to have some form of gambling addiction and 2.2 million are at risk.
The latest data comes as the health service plans to launch two new gambling clinics in Southampton and Stoke-On-Trent.
The hubs, which are set to open in May, will take the total across England to seven.
Ms Murdoch said: "Gambling addiction is a cruel mental health condition that can devastate people's lives.
"The opening of two new gambling clinics in May, as a part of our £2.3bn 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."