Posted on: 20 March 2024

Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of NHS England, visited CNWL’s Addictions services to learn about the developments led by the Trust across our Gambling, Gaming and Behavioural Addictions clinics.

This comes as the NHS opens a fifteenth specialised gambling clinic this month.  

CNWL’s clinic was the first NHS service in England to offer treatment for people affected by gambling harms. It played an instrumental role in supporting the new clinics through the delivery of training, consultation and the publication of a treatment workbook.  

Amanda met with Trust colleagues to learn about treatment pathways and heard powerful stories from our service user representatives.

The Trust offers Addictions services for adults and young people across North West London, Milton Keynes and beyond, including the National Centre for Behavioural Addictions and the newly established East of England Gambling Service.

Around 60 percent of people self-refer to our national gambling service, predominantly men. However, we’ve seen an increase in referrals from women at the clinic, who now make up a third of our patients.

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Patient-centred care

Dr Jeffrey Fehler, Clinical Director for CNWL’s Addictions Directorate and Dr Venetia Leonidaki, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, shared with Amanda how the gambling service offers personalised care by drawing on evidence-based and innovative treatments.

Dr Leonidaki commented: “In recent years, we’ve encountered a lot of people with co-morbidities, including severe and enduring mental illness, partly due to increase in professional referrals.” 

Dr Fehler added:

“Joint liaison is the gold standard approach to managing co-morbidities and fortunately our addictions services are able to work collaboratively with our mental health services to effectively manage the needs of these vulnerable patients.

“We proudly rely on our service users to design and deliver our services. We are ambitious for our patients and want them to recover, but it is also about knowing they can come back to us if they relapse.”

The clinic recognises the significant impact of addictions on a service user’s support network and offers family therapy as part of care.

Phillip Adkins, Lead Nurse, said:  

“As a National Gambling Clinic, we regularly refer people to their local services in different areas. We’re seeing increasing numbers of clients, who might not buy food or pay rent when the money comes in, becoming homeless, so we link them in with charities and voluntary partners. Others might neglect their medication, such as insulin, so we link them in with their GP. Some might be suicidal, and never accessed mental health services before, so we liaise with those services.” 

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Peer support and leadership

Nick Adams, a volunteer at our Club Drug Clinic, has been abstinent of drugs for four years and is now studying to become a mental health nurse. Nick talked about the impact of his role on the recovery journey.

“Being able to see someone who has overcome the challenges themselves is inspirational. It gave me the confidence to believe I could do it. These invaluable insights come with lived experience.”  

The bespoke nature of the clinic was helpful for Nick, because staff understood the types of drugs he was taking. “I had visited other services, but when I came to the Club Drug Clinic the staff were so knowledgeable and I felt I was being heard.” 

Alex Lewis, a Peer Support Worker with our East of England Gambling Service, spoke about the prevalence and impact of gambling advertising.  

“It makes a big difference, sport in particular. It’s too easy to deposit thousands online in a short time.

"Since my recovery from gambling addiction, seeing the harms it caused to the people around me really helped me to see the negative impact of addiction. It was very difficult and it look me a number of years to have conversations about my own difficulties.”

The team are now working on new research opportunities that have come about from being the flagship clinic.

Will Davis, Service Manager for the National Centre for Behavioural Addictions said:

“After the pandemic we noticed more people were addicted to online gambling, because access to physical betting shops stopped. The landscape is changing rapidly, especially with mobile phones. A positive development is software apps that can block websites, which works well for a lot of people.”  

Amanda shared a thank you message to the team, which you can watch below.