In a move aimed at tackling the growing issue of harmful gambling, the UK’s National Institute for Care Excellence (NICE) has issued draft guidance recommending that healthcare professionals in the UK ask patients about their gambling habits during health checkups and GP appointments.
Healthcare Professionals Encourage Patients to Assess Gambling Habits
NICE’s draft guidance emphasizes the need for healthcare professionals to identify and address the risks associated with gambling when patients exhibit signs of mental health problems or possible addiction. According to the guidelines, individuals should be encouraged to assess the severity of their gambling habits by completing a questionnaire available on the NHS website. This questionnaire, based on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), helps individuals determine their risk level. A score of 8 or above indicates a need for specialized support, while those with lower scores can also benefit from available resources.
The guidance further recommends discussing the use of blocking software or tools to limit online gambling and suggests cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a treatment option. CBT has proven effective in helping individuals identify triggers and manage the thoughts and urges associated with gambling episodes, making it a valuable tool in addressing harmful gambling habits.
“Harmful gambling causes immense misery to all those who experience it. We want those needing help or who are at risk to be identified sooner and receive appropriate help,” stated Professor Jonathan Benger, chief medical officer and interim director of the Center for Guidelines at NICE.
NHS Expands Treatment Clinics and Involves Families
According to a recent review by Public Health England, approximately 300,000 adults in England are grappling with problem gambling. Additionally, an estimated 3.8 million individuals, including adults, children, and young people, are adversely affected by someone else’s gambling habits. To address this issue, NHS England has established 12 gambling treatment clinics across the country since 2019, with plans to open three more in the coming months. These specialized clinics, fully funded by the NHS, are expected to assist around 3,000 people annually.
NICE’s draft guidance also emphasizes the importance of involving family members, partners, or close individuals in the treatment process if both the patient and the involved parties consent to it. While the NHS takes proactive steps to support individuals struggling with gambling addiction, the UK government is also making efforts to curb the issue.
A White Paper released earlier this year outlined comprehensive reforms, including the introduction of a statutory levy on gambling operators to fund research, prevention, and treatment of gambling-related harm. The government plans to initiate a consultation on the specifics of the statutory levy in the coming weeks.