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25th May 2021


People harmed by gambling develop new care and treatment pathway for gambling disorder

Gambling with Lives has brought together people harmed by gambling and health experts to design a ground-breaking treatment and support system for people with gambling disorder and families affected by gambling. The comprehensive service would work in collaboration with the NHS and complement existing treatment and support systems.

We embarked on the unprecedented pathway design after hearing how people harmed by gambling were facing judgement and a lack of understanding in some mainstream health services that further harmed their mental health.

“It is essential that people harmed by gambling are at the forefront of designing care and treatment for gambling disorder,” says Liz Ritchie, Co-founder of Gambling with Lives, whose son Jack took his life after becoming addicted to dangerous gambling products while at school. “We know how few people access treatment, how few feel helped, and this design for a care and treatment pathway aims to redress this.”

Gambling poses well-recognised risks to people’s wellbeing, with almost 20 per cent of the UK population currently experiencing gambling harm either directly or through the addiction of a friend or family member. Gambling with Lives commissioned this project as part of its suicide prevention work: we estimate there are between 250 and 650 gambling related suicides every year in the UK, a minimum of one every working day.

“Suicidal thoughts go hand in hand with gambling and speedy appropriate help is the first line of suicide prevention,” says Liz Ritchie. “This work is dedicated to all those who were not helped in time.”

The design was shaped by focus groups with people with lived experience as well as input from clinicians and other experts familiar with gambling disorder and its treatment. The resulting pathway involves a comprehensive approach involving outreach, information, education, and advice as well as practical help such as motivational interviewing and peer support.

Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, Founder and Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London, said of the project:

“I see the serious harms caused to people by gambling disorder every day at my clinic. An addiction to gambling can affect anyone and can pose a risk to life.  It is essential that evidence-based services are led by the NHS to ensure quality clinical standards.  I welcome this Gambling with Lives project and the work of people harmed by gambling in helping us to ensure that services are integrated with existing NHS pathways and really meet the needs of our population.”

A key part of the support is that it acknowledges wide ranging determinants of gambling harm – including dangerous gambling industry products and practices – rather than focusing responsibility on individuals. It also seeks to ensure frontline professionals across services are aware of gambling harm and how to effectively treat it.

Lord Foster of Bath, Chair of Peers for Gambling Reform, welcomes the treatment pathway design: 

“As parliamentarians work on improving gambling legislation to tackle gambling harm, it’s great to see people who have been harmed by gambling at the forefront of the push to enable more access to evidence-based treatment. Our recommendation for the introduction of a smart levy should help fund such treatment, ensure it’s free of industry influence and led by the NHS.  We welcome the creative work of Gambling with Lives in this area which is rooted in the needs of families.”

We propose to pilot a pathway based on this design with partners in Greater Manchester as the next phase of this project. Insights from this process could then be used to raise the standard of the system of gambling treatment and care nationally. This would include offering a model for making treatment and care for gambling harms a part of NHS integrated care systems through local leadership, collaboration and commissioning.

We are applying for regulatory settlement funding from the Gambling Commission to fund the Manchester pilot project.

Read the full pathway design here



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