Health Service Focus

08.10.19

NHS opens first specialist children's gaming addiction clinic opens

Children and young adults with serious addictions to computer games will be offered help and care by the NHS following the launch of the country’s first specialist clinic.

The new service is an extension of the NHS Long Term Care plan, as part of the National Centre for Behavioural Addictions, which will also support individuals with internet addictions.

Concerns surrounding the length of time children and teenagers are spending online playing games are growing, specifically the effect it can have on a young person’s mental health.

The World Health Organization has recently classified gaming disorder as a mental health condition for the first time.

However, the Royal college of Nursing (RCN) has responded today calling for more responsibility on gaming firms rather than the NHS.

Fiona Smith, professional lead for Children and Young People at the RCN said:

“As technology becomes more accessible and more advanced, it’s unsurprising that more and more young people are potentially* being negatively affected by excessive screen time to the point where it effects their daily lives. The damage of addiction of any kind goes beyond the child or young person, causing distress to parents, families and friends.

“Whilst the NHS has a duty of care and is adapting to these modern challenges, it, and taxpayers, can’t foot the bill alone. Online gaming firms and global social media firms who make millions of pounds of profit must take more responsibility by keeping their platforms safe, and introduce safeguards to reduce the burden on the health service.

“Any new service also needs the health care professionals to staff it, but in England alone there are 40,000 nursing vacancies. Until there is substantial investment in the nursing workforce, the safe and effective staffing of all services, in all settings will remain a challenge. This includes investment in school nurses who could ultimately provide early support to those children and young people at a much earlier stage.”

The new Centre for Internet and Gaming Disorders launches at the same time as the children and young person’s gambling addiction service goes live.

Both services will work with patients aged 13-25 whose lives are experiencing adverse effects of behavioural issues associated with gambling, gaming and social media.

This includes impaired control over gaming and putting priority on gaming over relationships, work and school life and spiralling financial costs.

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said:

“Health needs are constantly changing which is why the NHS must never stand still – this new service is a response to an emerging problem, part of the increasing pressures that children and young people are exposed to these days.

“However, the NHS should not be left to pick up the pieces – gambling and internet firms have a responsibility to their users as well as their shareholders and should do their utmost to prevent rather than cash in on obsessive or harmful behaviour.”

Many countries are trying to tackle the issue of gaming and internet addiction. In South Korea the government has introduced a law banning access for children under 16 from online games between midnight and 06:00.

In Japan, players are alerted if they spend more than a certain amount of time each month playing games and in China, internet giant Tencent has limited the hours that children can play its most popular games.

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