GambleAware faces RET rethink as NHS cuts gambling funding ties

The funding of problem gambling’s research, education and treatment (RET) programme faces a radical shake-up as the NHS is expected to declare that it will no longer accept donations/funds from charities associated with the UK gambling sector.

According to The Sunday Times, NHS governors will ‘rubber-stamp the decision this week, so ties are cut for the new financial year’ – a decision taken to protect the integrity of the NHS’ network of problem gambling addiction clinics further medical research.

The surprise decision will likely see the NHS end its working relationship with GambleAware, which co-funded the launch of the NHS’ problem gambling service’ in 2019, committing £1 million to establish a dedicated problem gambling RET clinic in Leeds.

Since 2019, the NHS and GambleAware have launched three further dedicated clinics in London, Manchester and Sunderland – deemed vital to expanding the health service’s support and facilities treating gambling disorders.

Chaired by Kate Lampard (CBE), GambleAware has long underscored its total independence from the UK gambling sector.

The charity operates under a ‘framework agreement’ with the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) to support the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, that requires licensed operators to provide voluntary contributions to help GambleAware fund its RET programme support services and national campaigns.

Publishing its 2020/2021 accounts, GambleAware disclosed that it had secured £19 million in voluntary donations from UK gambling operators.

The Sunday Times article estimated that “in the year to March 20211, the health service was given £1.2 million by betting companies, via the industry-funded charity Gamble Aware, to fund its clinics”.

Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, was cited as a supporter of the NHS decision to end its relationship with GambleAware as “NHS clinicians have been asking for a very long time for the independence of funding from industry.”

In further developments, The Lancet medical journal is expected to publish ’a paper next month’ addressing the urgent need for independent studies examining problem gambling.

The need for deeper academic research and insights is outlined as a critical objective by GambleAware, who last year launched a £4 million fund to provide direct grants for universities and independent institutions specialising in the field of gambling harms and societal impacts.

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