Online gambling is causing a surge in suicidal young men turning to A&E, according to health bosses at the NHS.
A 42% annual rise in demand for NHS gambling clinics has resulted in the health service needing to open another two facilities in England to cope.
According to the clinical lead and consultant psychologist for the NHS Northern Gambling Service Matt Gaskell, the clinics are full of “young men in football shirts” who have fallen foul of “predatory tactics” by betting firms.
He told The Times: “People start gambling as soon as they wake up in the morning; they’re gambling in the shower, gambling while they’re driving to work. The NHS is picking up the tab.
“There has been an increase in people turning up at A&E in crisis, in a state of suicide. People are completely desperate, begging for help and seeing suicide as a genuine escape.”
According to Dr Gaskell, three quarters of patients are men and most are in their 30s.
“One of the first things I noticed was that groups were filled with young men wearing football shirts,” he added. “That hasn’t stopped.”
NHS England figures suggest referrals to gambling clinics are rising, with 599 between April and September this year, up from 421 in the same period last year.
From April 2021 to March 2022, there were 1,013 referrals, up from 775 the year before.
The NHS has now opened two new gambling addiction clinics – one in Stoke and one in Southampton.
The NHS Long Term Plan pledged to open 15 gambling clinics by 2023/24, with seven now open in London, Leeds, Sunderland, Manchester, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Telford.
A further national addiction clinic, which treats gambling and gaming addiction for children and young people, is also open in London.
Around 138,000 people could be problem gamblers, according to Gambling Commission figures, with around 1.3 million people engaging in either moderate or low-risk gambling – although other research estimates this figure could be higher.
NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch said: “Addiction is a cruel illness that can take over and ruin lives, from putting people into financial distress to straining family relations, and it is no exaggeration to say it can be deadly in the most extreme cases.
“Thousands suffer gambling problems across the country and it is important those suffering from addiction know that the NHS is here to help, and they should not hesitate to come forward for support if needed.
“But while the NHS is there for anybody suffering, the NHS cannot be left alone to pick up the ills caused by unhealthy business practices, and firms engaging in activities that fuel addiction should think hard about the human cost that can be behind their profits.”