Healthcare staff lack training to help problem gamblers
According to research conducted by the Guardian, problem gambling remains a serious, but hidden addiction in the UK, with healthcare staff lacking the training to assist those suffering with problem gambling.
There are two main reasons why gambling is not discussed or understood as widely as other addictive psychological disorders.
Firstly, there is a distinct lack of training among healthcare staff to support problem gamblers. Secondly, both healthcare workers and those with a gambling addiction are not aware of organisations and resources that can offer assistance and treatment.
The lack of understanding is exacerbated by a lack of resources to treat those who come forward. The UK is home to just one dedicated clinic treating problem gamblers, the National Problem Gambling Clinic. Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones is a consultant psychiatrist and works at the clinic. She believes that one of the reasons the issue is not more widely known or talked about is due to a lack of training among healthcare workers. She said:
For many years while drug and alcohol addictions were being researched and funded in terms of treatment, the issue of gambling wasn’t taught at medical school. Even as an addictions psychiatrist, we weren’t taught about pathological gambling – I came across it by chance.– Dr Bowden-Jones, consultant psychiatrist at the National Problem Gambling Clinic
Problem gamblers unaware of where to access treatment
Compounding the issue is the fact that many of those with a gambling addiction don’t know where or how to seek out the required help or assistance. Many do turn to charities such as Gamble Aware who can help. But last year Gamble Aware saw just under 9,000 people, when current figures show that there are an estimated 400,000 problem gamblers in the UK.
There are already efforts by government to increase both the knowledge around the illness and the resources to treat gambling addiction. Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, proposed that his party would force gambling operators to pay a levy that would fund treatment and research by the NHS into problem gambling.
While this move would help significantly, critics have argued that resources should also be put toward raising awareness of the addiction itself and of organisations that can help.