Health professionals should ask people about gambling when attending a GP appointment relating to a mental health problem, according to new draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
The question should be posed in the way people are asked about their smoking and alcohol consumption in similar circumstances, NICE said.
The organisation has identified that when people present at appointments with depression, anxiety or thoughts about self-harm or suicide or in relation to a possible addiction – for example, alcohol or drug misuse – they could be at increased risk of harm from gambling.
Therefore, according to NICE’s recommendations, this needs to be identified and addressed by health professionals.
The draft guidance states that people should be encouraged to assess the severity of their gambling by completing a questionnaire available on the NHS website.
The questionnaire is based on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), a standardised measure for at-risk behaviour. A score of eight or above indicates that they may need to seek support and treatment from a specialist gambling treatment service while those with lower scores may also benefit from available support.
NICE recommends that health professionals discuss with people whether they can use blocking software or tools to limit their online gambling, and that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) should be a treatment option.
Health professionals are also advised to consider involving a partner, family member or someone else close to the person experiencing gambling-related harms in their treatment, if that is what both want.
According to Professor Jonathan Benger, NICE chief medical officer and interim director of the centre for guidelines, the independent committee who made the draft recommendations included both clinicians and people with personal experience of harmful gambling.
’They scrutinised all the available evidence to identify treatments and therapies that have been shown to work and offer good value for money,’ he said.
‘The result is this useful and usable advice to help NHS clinics as they develop their service.’
The Public Health England gambling-related harms evidence review reported that around 300,000 adults experience ‘problem gambling’, and an estimated 3.8 million adults, children and young people in Great Britain are ‘affected others’ – people who have personally experienced negative effects from another person’s gambling.
NHS England has opened 12 gambling treatment clinics across England since 2019, with a further three due to open in the coming months. These clinics are expected to see 3,000 people a year.
The consultation on NICE’s draft harmful gambling: identification, assessment and management clinical guideline is open now and closes on Wednesday, 15 November.