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9th Nov 2022 Joe Williams

People in treatment show major improvement in their well-being after just six appointments with national treatment service

A new report shows that on average, people experiencing gambling harms can significantly and quickly improve their well-being and gambling behaviour after just six appointments with the National Gambling Treatment Service (NGTS), with continued improvements recorded following subsequent sessions.

The analysis of nearly 14,500 qualifying referrals and 95,000 attended appointments found treatment length translated into improvements in the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) behaviours such as chasing losses, which decreased sharply in the first three appointments before levelling out – highlighting the value of even shorter stints of support.  

In addition to significant improvements, the report found NGTS services to be highly effective, with 77% of people living with gambling harms who completed treatment showing clinically significant improvement in their gambling behaviour, and 56% showing improvement in their wellbeing, at the end of their treatment.

Crucially, new insight on the treatment pathway revealed that people who experience gambling harm who completed treatment were 78% more likely to have clinically significant change in both gambling behaviours and wellbeing measures than those who dropped out. 

The report revealed several other important insights:

  • Encouragingly, the vast majority of those analysed completed treatment (81%), which on average spanned the length of 12 weeks (mean of 6.6 sessions). 
  • While significant benefits were noted even after this short period, continuing with treatment was shown to lead to further improvements – with the biggest difference in clinical measures being estimated at 14 attended appointments for well-being and 11 for gambling behaviours. The negative impact of missing sessions was highlighted by the bigger improvements made to the severity of gambling when the previous appointment was attended.
  • In Great Britain, up to 1 in 10 adults are estimated to be at risk of gambling harms. When gambling becomes harmful, it can have disastrous consequences on people’s lives, from financial impact through to mental and physical health. The NGTS, commissioned by GambleAware, is a network of organisations that provide confidential treatment and support for anyone experiencing gambling-related harms in England, Scotland and Wales.

Anna Hargrave, Chief Commissioning Officer at Gamble Aware, said: “We know the National Gambling Treatment Service makes a real difference to service users and we've already seen how its user led approach can a have a positive impact on the lives of people experiencing gambling harms across Britain.

"However, it is encouraging to see new findings highlighting how fast improvement can happen. These novel insights into the potential optimum range of appointments, and the importance of supporting users to not miss sessions and completing treatment, will help make the service even more effective. This could mean more people are helped, and more quickly."

Clients of NGTS gambling treatment services can either be people who experience problematic gambling behaviour themselves (as defined by a gambling behaviour scale), people who are indirectly affected by another person’s gambling (often termed ‘affected others’) or people who are at risk of developing problematic gambling behaviour.

The analysis revealed overall one in six service users were affected others (15%), with the vast majority of those being female as well (85%). In contrast, 84% of people who engaged with the service were male. Female and older people living with gambling harms had smaller reductions in gambling.

The new report is based on an analysis of data from a three-year period (2018-2021) focusing on Tier 3 (structured psychosocial treatment, community based, outpatient) and Tier 4 (residential care) treatment referrals, which included some of the most severely impacted patients of the service.

Findings were based on a comprehensive data set of nearly 14,500 qualifying referrals and 95,000 attended appointments, with gambling behaviour measured using the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) and well-being measured using the Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation (Core-10) measure.  It is the most in-depth assessment of the service to date. 

Ben Hickman, one of the report authors, said: “These findings add to the growing body of research highlighting the efficacy of the National Gambling Treatment Service. The assessment and treatment of problem gambling is a relatively new field, with depressingly expanding demand, and it is important for us to continuously challenge our own assumptions about what works.  

“That means striving to improve not just the data we collect, but also the way it is collected. We must be open to challenging the way that we have done things while being realistic that for those on the frontline data is secondary to their role of helping people improve their lives. We hope this report goes some way towards moving the conversation forwards.”

The authors acknowledge limitations of the study, including general data quality issues, the short-comings of the PGSI as a measure of gambling behaviour, and the lack of data about both specific interventions used and long-term behaviour change. 

-ENDS-

Notes for editors

About the National Gambling Treatment Service

The National Gambling Treatment Service (NGTS) is a network of organisations working together to provide confidential treatment and support for anyone experiencing gambling-related harms, either as a person who gambles or someone who is impacted by someone else’s gambling. The NGTS is free to access across England, Scotland and Wales.

The NGTS is commissioned by GambleAware, an independent grant-making charity that takes a public health approach to reducing gambling harms. Wherever someone makes contact with the NGTS network, the providers work alongside each other through referral pathways to deliver the most appropriate package of care. 

For the period of this analysis, the following organisations were part of the NGTS. Details of the services they provide, are listed below. 

GamCare and its partner network offers:

Online treatment supported by regular contact with a therapist, which can be accessed at a time and place convenient for the client over the course of eight weeks.

One-to-one face-to-face, online and telephone therapeutic support and treatment for people with gambling problems as well as family and friends who are impacted by gambling.

Group based Gambling Recovery Courses delivered face-to-face or online for between six to eight weeks.

Gordon Moody offers:

Residential Treatment Centres – two unique specialist centres, providing an intensive residential treatment programme for men with a gambling disorder over a period of 14 weeks.

Recovery Housing – specialist relapse prevention housing for those who have completed the treatment programmes requiring additional recovery support.

Retreat & Counselling Programme – retreat programmes for women-only-cohorts and men-only-cohorts which combine short residential stays with at-home counselling support.

Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (London Problem Gambling Clinic) offers:

Specialist addiction therapy and recovery to people affected by gambling addiction, as well as those with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and suicidal feelings. They also provide help to also provide help to people close to those with gambling addiction, such as family, partners, and carers. 

NHS Northern Gambling Service, provided by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust offers:

Specialist addiction therapy and recovery for people affected by gambling addiction, as well as those with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and suicidal feelings. also provide help to people close to those with gambling addiction, such as family, partners, and carers. 

About GambleAware

·    GambleAware is the leading charity (Charity No. England & Wales 1093910, Scotland SC049433) working to keep people safe from gambling harms. We do this by leading public health campaigns, education programmes and driving the transformation of treatment and prevention services. 
·    Every year we fund access to free, confidential treatment for nearly 12,000 people and over 41,000 calls to the National Gambling Helpline. 
·    GambleAware is an independent charity, accountable to the Charity Commission, with an extremely robust system of governance processes in place. The majority of our Board of trustees are leaders within the NHS and public health sector. 
·    We work in close collaboration with the NHS, clinicians, local and national government, gambling treatment providers, as well as other services like mental health, substance misuse and criminal justice, to ensure that the whole system works together to help people suffering from gambling harms. 
·    Our research shows that one in 10 people who gamble are at risk of experiencing gambling harms. Gambling can harm people and their families financially, psychologically and physically. GambleAware works in close collaboration with leading organisations and experts including the NHS, government, local authorities and gambling treatment providers, to ensure that people get the information, support and treatment they need. 
·    GambleAware is a commissioner of independent evidence-informed prevention and treatment services in partnership with expert organisations and agencies across Great Britain, with over £56 million of funding under active management.