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North's first clinic for problem gamblers

A groundbreaking NHS clinic for gambling addiction will be based in Leeds.

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The clinic will see psychiatrists and clinical psychologists working with patients whose lives are being wrecked by severe or complex issues with gambling.

The announcement about the centre – the first of its kind outside London – follows on from Leeds Beckett University's research that found that as many as eight per cent of people in the city are either problem or ‘at risk' gamblers - twice the national average.

The research was carried out by Dr Alexandra Kenyon with colleague Dr Neil Ormerod, from the School of Events, Tourism and Hospitality Management, together with Professor David Parson and Dr Heather Wardle.

Dr Kenyon said: "The new gambling clinic has the potential to save lives.

"During our research, gamblers explained how they hid their addiction from family and friends.

"They confessed they had gambled away grocery money and sometimes gambled their entire wages.

"Tragically, people with severe gambling addictions have been known to take their lives when they could no longer face their spiralling debts.

"Hopefully, the new clinic based in Leeds will provide much-needed support for problem gamblers – it's a massive and welcomed step forward."

The NHS Northern Gambling Clinic is due to start operating at an as-yet-unconfirmed location in Leeds in April and will receive £1.2m in funding each year from the GambleAware charity.

Services will be delivered by the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and GamCare - a leading provider of information, advice, support and free counselling on problem gambling.

Matt Gaskell, a consultant psychologist for addiction services at the NHS Trust will be the clinical lead at the new centre.

He said: "Gambling addiction has a devastating effect on people's lives and those around them, including their loved ones.

"Those diagnosed with gambling disorder often need help with a range of difficulties, including mental health problems.

"It can lead to serious debt and family breakdown, people losing their jobs, people turning to crime in desperation for funds, and even suicide.

"In fact, of all the addictions people suffer from, gambling has the highest suicide rate."

News of the go-ahead for the clinic has been welcomed by Coun Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council's executive member for communities.

Coun Coupar said: "I am delighted to see that hard work done by partners across the city has led to the decision to base a treatment service for problem gamblers in Leeds, where we have a national reputation for positive work in this area.”

An estimated 430,000 people nationwide have a gambling problem while another two million are at risk of developing one.

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