A FACILITY which offers help to those struggling with gambling addictions has opened in the North-East.

The NHS Northern Gambling Service opened their new base at the Beacon of Light in Sunderland which will see and treat people who are struggling with gambling addictions across the north of England.

The facility is home to a consultant psychologist, consultant psychiatrist, clinical psychologist and senior mental health nurse, who alongside the team in Leeds will provide care for those with severe addictions.

They will also provide treatment and support for people with additional complex mental health conditions.

In England around 265,000 adults (0.4% of the population) are classified as higher risk problem gamblers, with around 2.4 million (3.6%) classified as being at risk from developing a serious gambling problem.

However, fewer than three percent of those affected currently receive treatment or support.

Steve Ramsey started gambling at a young age, but it didn't develop into a problem until he was introduced to online gambling.

His addiction escalated rapidly, and soon his savings had disappeared and he had started using credit to deposit funds into his account, even committing fraud.

He described the feeling as being "in a big hole with nowhere to turn."

He said: “I remember once I’d said the words 'I have a huge gambling problem' everything in my life got better.

"An incredible weight had been lifted off my shoulders just by uttering those words and letting people know I needed some help."

The NHS Northern Gambling Service, run by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, launched in September 2019.

It is the first NHS gambling service of its kind to launch outside of London.

A further base covering the North-West of England will be launched in Manchester.

Consultant Psychologist Matthew Gaskell is the clinical lead for the new NHS Northern Gambling Service.

He said: “I’m delighted we’ve opened our new base in Sunderland.

"This will help make our service more accessible to people in the North-East where we know there are thousands of people who need our support."

The North-East clinic is part of commitments made in the NHS long-term plan.

In June 2019, NHS England announced it would be commissioning a network of new gambling addiction services for adults and children across the country as part of these commitments, although the NHS service will only be treating adults initially.

People can get support through psychological therapies, addiction treatment programmes, mental health treatment, family therapy and peer support from those whose lives have already been adversely affected by gambling.

The service can also offer separate support to family members and carers of those affected by problem gambling.

Claire Murdoch, NHS national director for mental health, said: “The NHS is constantly rising to meet new health challenges.

"We are fighting back against the misery of mental ill health caused by gambling addiction by rolling out new specialist clinics across the country, as part of our long-term plan.

“While the NHS will always be there for people - adapting, improving and increasing different and new treatments as our patients need them - the gambling industry, which rakes in billions of pounds from punters and spends vast amounts on aggressive marketing to reel ever more people in, really has to shoulder the blame and ensure a fair amount of its profits help those in need.”

Marc Etches is the chief executive of GambleAware, the independent charity which funds research, prevention and treatment services to help to reduce gambling harms in Great Britain.

He said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the NHS to expand treatment for people with gambling problems in the North East.

"This new service will make it easier for people with serious and complex needs linked to gambling, to access effective treatment swiftly.”