Online gambling is causing a rise in the number of suicidal young men turning to A&E, NHS health bosses say.
A 42% annual rise in demand for NHS gaming clinics has forced the health service to open two more facilities in England to cope.
According to NHS Northern Gambling Service clinical officer and consultant psychologist Matt Gaskell, clinics are full of “young men in football shirts” who have fallen victim to “predatory tactics” by betting companies.
He told The Times: “People start gambling as soon as they wake up in the morning; they play in the shower, play while driving to work. The NHS takes note.
“There has been an increase in the number of people coming to A&E in crisis, in a state of suicide. People are completely desperate, begging for help and seeing suicide as a real escape.
According to Dr. Gaskell, three quarters of the patients are men and most are in their thirties.
“One of the first things I noticed was that the groups were full of young men wearing football shirts,” he added. “It didn’t stop.”
Earlier this year the NHS stopped taking money from the gambling industry for the treatment of people with addictions.
NHS England national mental health director Claire Murdoch said the funding decision was ‘heavily influenced’ by patients who were not comfortable using industry-paid services – a point of view that has been taken up by doctors.
GambleAware’s accounts show it raised £16million between April and December last year in voluntary donations from the gambling industry to fund a range of processing services.
These include NHS gaming clinics, which received £1.2million in 2020/21.
Overall voluntary commitments to GambleAware last year included £1m from William Hill, just over £4m from Bet365 and £4m from Entain.
Between April and December last year, 668 people with the most serious gambling addiction problems were referred to NHS gambling clinics – up from 575 during the same period in 2020 – an increase of 16.2% , according to NHS England.
The North of England has the highest proportion of at-risk gamblers, with 4.4% of adults in the North West and 4.9% in the North East being most at risk of addiction.
Overall, around 0.5% of the UK adult population, or around 246,000 people, are thought to be at risk of some form of gambling addiction and 2.2 million are at risk.
The industry makes profits of over £14 billion a year from gambling in the UK.
Visit BeGambleAware.org for free, confidential advice and support. The National Gambling Helpline is also available on 0808 8020 133 and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.