Saturday 19 February 2022

Apparently, the NHS has money to burn

From the Guardian...

The NHS has severed its links with the charity GambleAware due to concerns over its connections to the gambling industry.

Announcing two new clinics to deal with record demand for gambling addiction services in England, the mental health director of the NHS, Claire Murdoch, decried the “predatory tactics” of gambling companies.

... GambleAware, which describes itself as “an independent, grant-making charity commissioning prevention and treatment services” is funded almost entirely by donations from the gambling industry.

Last year it announced a three-year funding arrangement with the UK’s four biggest gambling companies totalling £100m. It has previously been criticised for having too big an influence on the funding of research into and treatment of gambling addiction.

NHS England has had a “dual commissioning and funding” arrangement with GambleAware since 2019, with £1.2m a year going into the National Gambling Treatment Service, which currently operates five clinics in London, Leeds, Manchester and Sunderland as well as a national telephone helpline.

This is outrageous. The taxpayer is going to have to step in to make up the shortfall because this woman has an irrational moral aversion to using money from the gambling industry to treat problem gamblers. 
There is absolutely no upside to this. It is pure virtue signalling. So much for the NHS being 'under-funded'. 

It is particularly ridiculous because in 2019 Claire Murdoch was calling on the industry to "ensure a fair amount of its profits help its customers who may suffer from addiction". It is less than a year since she was telling the industry to provide more money for treatment. From the Guardian in April 2021...

“After seeing the destruction the gambling industry has caused to young people in this country, it is clear that firms are focused on profit at the expense of people’s health, while the NHS is increasingly left to pick up the pieces,” she said.

“In a year when the NHS has dealt with our biggest challenge yet in Covid-19, the health service’s psychologists and nurses having been treating hundreds of people with severe gambling addictions.

“The gambling industry must take more responsibility, as the nation has come together over the last year to support the NHS, whether it be volunteering as vaccinators or showing their gratitude to staff. The bookmakers must also step up and agree to a mandatory levy to pay for dealing with the harms of problem gambling.”

There is a lot to unpick in this quote. Firstly, you may have noticed that Murdoch sounds more like an activist than a senior NHS official. She has form for this. She often uses NHS press releases to attack the gambling industry in Student Union terms, accusing it of "hijacking sport in pursuit of profit" and being "shameless".

Secondly, she hasn't been keeping up with developments if she thinks the bookmakers have got money to spare. They've been busy closing down thousands of betting shops since the government effectively outlawed fixed-odds betting terminals. Wasn't that supposed to reduce the number of problem gamblers, by the way? How's that going? 

Thirdly, the industry could agree to a mandatory levy but it cannot implement one. Alternatively, the government could implement one and it wouldn't matter whether the industry agreed with it or not. The fact is that the government hasn't implemented a mandatory levy so the only way the industry can contribute is with voluntary donations. 
In any case, GambleAware isn't 'the industry'. It is an independent charity funded by industry. 

Unfortunately, this fanatic won't accept voluntary donations even from GambleAware so taxpayers have to put their hand in their pocket again.

It's a disgrace. Sajid Javid needs to look into this. Why has an anti-gambling activist been appointed mental health director of the NHS? Why is she being allowed to use the NHS as a platform for her little rants about a legal industry? And why hasn't she been told to get on with job with whatever money is available?

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