Tyne & Wear

Sunderland gambling clinic opens doors to North East addicts

Slot machines in an amusement arcade Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Gambling has been described as "a new public health crisis"

An NHS clinic to treat gambling addicts has opened in north east England.

The facility in Sunderland is run by the Northern Gambling Service and funded by the NHS and the charity GambleAware.

Its team - along with colleagues in Leeds, where there is also a clinic - will provide free treatment and support to addicts and families.

There will also be help for people with additional mental health conditions, which are often complex.

A recent NHS survey found more than two-and-a-half million people in England had some kind of gambling problem.

Consultant Psychologist Matthew Gaskell from the NHS Northern Gambling Service said: "Gambling addiction is a new public health crisis.

"It's causing serious harm to thousands of people [including] mental health problems, serious debt, breakdown of relationships, loss of employment, crime, homelessness and sometimes suicide.

"However the chances of recovery from addictions like problem gambling can be very good with proper treatment."

Image copyright Northern Gambling Service
Image caption Recovering gambling addict Steve Ramsey said if he had been able to use a clinic it would have made a big difference

One of those supporting the opening of the clinic is recovering addict Steve Ramsey, whose habit at one point cost him thousands of pounds a day, and eventually led to him being imprisoned for fraud .

He said: "The addiction preyed on my poorest character traits making it so easy not to deal with anything and instead go off and forget about any problems and just continue to gamble.

"If I'd been able to use an NHS gambling clinic or been aware of one it would have made a big difference to me."

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