Drink and Drugs News DDN December 2019 | Page 13

IGHT NATIONAL STRATEGY Growing concern around problem gambling also led the Gambling Commission to launch its three- year National strategy to reduce gambling harms in April 2019. 8 A partnership between regulators, health organisations, charities and the industry, the strategy’s aim is to coordinate efforts to ‘bring a lasting impact on reducing gambling harms’ through a combination of enforcement and adoption of evidence-based approaches. To coincide with the strategy, Public Health England (PHE) announced that it would be conducting a major evidence review on the impact of problem gambling on people’s health and wellbeing. The strategy’s two priority areas are ‘prevention and education’ and ‘treatment and support’, with the first concentrating on creating the right mix of interventions and the second on delivering ‘truly national treatment and support options that meet the needs of users’. There are around two million people experiencing some level of gambling harm NATIONAL GAMBLING TREATMENT SERVICE Treatment provision for people with a gambling disorder has improved significantly in recent years, not least with the advent of the National Gambling Treatment Service. Commissioned by GambleAware and provided by a network of NHS and voluntary sector services across GB, it provides free, effective treatment that can include anything from counselling and brief interventions to psychotherapy, psychiatric care and residential rehab. The service works closely with partner organisations to map out care pathways and referral routes, with many referrals coming via the National Gambling Helpline – 0808 8020 133. This free helpline also provides confidential advice and support from trained advisors for those who don’t necessarily want to access treatment. Available every day via phone or live chat, the service explains the treatment options available in the caller’s area and can also advise on support for family members. There is also an active user forum for peer support. In the year to March 2019 the National Gambling Treatment Service treated 10,000 people, while the helpline received 30,000 calls and online chats. A major new digital awareness campaign will also launch early in 2020. Treatment for problem gambling is currently not regulated under the legislation that governs the work of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), although GambleAware is working with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to explore options for an equivalent level of quality assurance. WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM Going public The importance of a public health approach A 2019 paper published in the BMJ, Gambling and public health: we need policy action to prevent harm, stressed that ‘Simply stating that gambling is a public health problem is not enough’. 9 It must also ‘be treated as one by policy makers’, it said, and called for increased funding for both treatment and prevention. When the Gambling Commission launched its national strategy one of its two main strategic priorities was ‘prevention and education – making significant progress towards a clear public health prevention plan.’ At the same time, PHE announced its large-scale evidence review on the public health harms related to gambling, and the NHS made clear the link between problem gambling and stress, depression and other mental health issues. The 2019 NHS long term plan also pledges to work with partners to tackle gambling issues ‘at source’ as part of its commitment to prevention, as well as to expanding specialist help. 10 GambleAware believes that a public health approach to reducing gambling harms can be split into three different aspects – primary prevention, which is aimed at the whole population; secondary prevention, which is aimed at groups with a higher prevalence of gambling harms, and tertiary prevention, aimed specifically at people with a gambling disorder. Prevention services are commissioned by GambleAware across three areas of activity. The first is the National Gambling Treatment Service, which includes the National Gambling Helpline and a network of voluntary sector and NHS providers. RAISING AWARENESS The second area is public health campaigns and practical support for local services such as GP surgeries, mental health services, prisons, debt advice agencies and youth workers. GambleAware has funded initiatives by Citizens Advice and the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) to raise awareness of gambling issues and the specialist treatment available among healthcare professionals and staff in other local agencies. There is also the national prevention campaign, Bet Regret, which encourages people not to gamble when drunk, bored or in order to ‘chase’ their losses. The third area is commissioning research and evaluation to build a database of evidence-based good practice, which has so far included more than 40 separate peer- reviewed research projects. WIDER HEALTH SERIES • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • 3