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5th Dec 2022 Joe Williams

Primary Care Gambling Service Pilot Evaluation published by GambleAware

New analysis reveals the importance of empowering GPs to help tackle growing public health issue

‘Fast access, tailored treatment, personal approach’ – patients highly rate first Primary Care Gambling Service

A new evaluation – carried out by IFF Research – of Great Britain’s first frontline centre dedicated to treating harmful gambling has revealed positive feedback of the service from patients and highlighted important knowledge gaps for GPs.

The Primary Care Gambling Service (PCGS) opened in 2019 in south east London. It was developed, and is now delivered by, the Hurley Group, an NHS Partnership led by practicing GPs. PCGS aims to provide accessible, consistent and whole patient support for people experiencing gambling harms by integrating primary care and third sector support. PGCS is delivered by a multidisciplinary team including two GPs, a mental health nurse and a peer support worker1.

The new report, commissioned by GambleAware, examined more than 100 referrals and included interviews with 15 PGCS clients. Feedback was positive, with clients praising the speed of contact after referral, rapid access to support and treatment, and the personalised and welcoming approach. 

Zoë Osmond, GambleAware Chief Executive, said: “Harmful gambling is a growing public health issue but it is not being treated as such. I hope the Government’s White Paper is a catalyst for the regulatory reform so urgently needed, but improving access to support, and its effectiveness, is also vital. 

“Excellent treatment options are available around the country, including through the National Gambling Treatment Service and NHS clinics, but they are too few and far between. This report is an exciting glimpse into a potential future - effective frontline care in more areas of the country for those that need it the most.”

The report also highlighted how GPs can play a more prominent role in tackling gambling harms. Encouragingly, 82% out of the more than 150 GPs surveyed recognised the need for a service like the PCGS, with 92% agreeing that if they were aware of one in their local region they would likely to refer patients to it. However, only a quarter of GPs reported being aware of gambling harm treatment and prevention services in their area. 

Fewer than half (40%) recognised signs of problem gambling amongst patients, and a third thought helping patients with gambling harms was a low priority given other NHS pressures. More than 60% of GPs were not confident in initiating conversations about gambling harms.

Dr Clare Gerada, President of the Royal College of General Practitioners who leads the Primary Care Gambling Service, said: “This report shows primary care gambling services could be a powerful new tool with which to tackle the growing crisis. Empowering GPs to become more confident in spotting the signs, and to better understand the nuances and health and social care complexities involved, is crucial. Through training and awareness, we can support frontline staff to make an even greater contribution to public health.”  

Out of the six referral pathways evaluated the most common route was through the charity GamCare. As well as focusing on GPs to increase the number of referrals, which was hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the report authors recommend promoting self-referrals through the PCGS website and exploring ways to access more referrals via eConsult.

They also encourage reviewing the capacity of PCGS, identifying the optimum structure of the staff team, and continuing to monitor patient experience.

Notes to Editors

  • PCGS was funded by a regulatory settlement from the Gambling Commission between October 2019 
  • 1PCGS is delivered by a multidisciplinary team consisting of two GPs, a mental health nurse, an addiction psychiatrist, a peer support worker, and externally employed therapists. 

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. 
  • 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.