NHS professionals need to ask patients about their gambling if they are presenting with a mental health problem, new draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has concluded.
This should be done in a similar way to how people are already asked about their smoking and alcohol consumption, ultimately as a way of pre-emptively tackling any harm that could result from gambling.
Public Health England’s review into gambling-related harms revealed that approximately 300,000 adults have ‘problem gambling’ – i.e., scoring eight or more on the problem gambling severity index.
It also showed that around 3.8 million people are ‘affected others’ – in other words, those who are collateral damage to problem gambling and have experienced negative effects from someone else’s habit.
NICE has identified that people who present at health checks or GP appointments with mental ill health could be at an increased risk of gambling harm.
Healthcare professionals are encouraged to ask patients whether they can use blocking software or other means to limit their online gambling – cognitive behavioural therapy is also recommended as a treatment option.
The guidance also recommends the NHS should urge patients to consider whether a partner, family member or other person is involved during treatment – but only if that is what both parties want.
NICE’s chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Benger, said: “The independent committee who made these draft recommendations included both clinicians and people with personal experience of harmful gambling.”
He continued: “They scrutinised all the available evidence to identify treatments and therapies that have been shown to work and offer good value for money.”
A consultation on the guidance is open now and will close on 15 November.
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