The NHS has confirmed that it will no longer accept grants from the gambling sector to fund its UK-wide problem gambling clinics and research, education and treatment (RET) programmes.
NHS England published an open letter from Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch to GambleAware Chief Executive Zoë Osmond, confirming the anticipated decision.
GambleAware was imformed that from 1 April, NHS organisations will no longer participate in the ‘current dual commissioning and funding arrangement’ that is in place to support the NHS’s network of specialist gambling clinics.
“We are very grateful to GambleAware for the funding that you have provided over the last 3 years, which has allowed us to roll out treatment services faster than would have otherwise been possible.” – Murdoch’s letter read.
“However, as these become part of normal recurrent spending commitment and the number of clinics is expanded, we want to move the funding into general NHS funding, as is standard for other similar services.”
This month reports circulated that NHS governors would instruct a ‘clean break’ from all forms of gambling sector funding – as senior researchers and clinicians had expressed concerns of the independence of the NHS’ problem gambling support network and further RET projects.
“Our decision has been heavily influenced by patients who have previously expressed concern about using services paid for directly by industry.” Murdoch disclosed.
“Additionally, our clinicians feel there are conflicts of interest in their clinics being part-funded by resources from the gambling industry.”
Today’s decision signals a crisis for GambleAware, the charity established in 2002 to serve as the lead grant-making organisation for UK problem gambling prevention and treatment services.
GambleAware’s new ‘5-Year Organisational Strategy’ had outlined developing an ‘integrated strategy’ with NHS organisations to improve its local response and societal research to problem gambling threats and risks.
“Gambling treatment services do not prevent people from being harmed in the first place and we would like to see the industry take firm action so that people do not need to seek help from the NHS.
“We hope that you will continue to join us in calling for the gambling industry to be more heavily regulated and taxed to generate public funding to address gambling harms.” – The letter concluded.
The NHS underlined that it would continue to have a ‘constructive relationship’ with GambleAware as changes are implemented.
Prior to the decision, GambleAware CEO Zoë Osmond had declared that all concerns on the independence RET funding would be immediately resolved by a fixed safer gambling levy being imposed on licensed operators.
Osmond and GambleAware trustees have recommended the mandatory levy as the charity’s headline reform to DCMS review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
“GambleAware has long called for the creation of a mandatory funding model to address gambling harms to ensure all operators are held accountable,” – Osmond previously stated to SBC.
“GambleAware is an independent charity, working to deliver the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms. We recognise that a whole system approach is needed which involves a coordinated and coherent approach, in partnership with others including the NHS.”
“We support a mandatory levy of 1% GGY across all operators to ensure consistency and transparency across the industry.”