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New Guidelines Recommend Doctors Ask Patients about Gambling Habits

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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published new draft guidelines recommending that GPs should inquire about the gambling habits of patients presenting with mental health issues.

Guidelines Published for Consultation

These draft guidelines were made public on 5 October for consultation, which will be open until 15 November. The guidelines advise healthcare and social care professionals to ask questions about problem gambling or related harms, especially if the individual shows symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

GPs who are involved in the criminal justice system are encouraged by NICE to ask people about their gambling activities whenever they interact with the legal system. This interaction could be with police, liaison and diversion services, probation services, courts, or prisons.

In addition, healthcare providers should also ask questions about gambling activities if they are interacting with individuals facing homelessness, financial challenges, or those who have a family history of addiction.

Guidelines Drafted by Independent Committee

An independent committee consisting of medical experts and individuals who have experienced harm formulated the guidance. Professor Jonathan Benger, who serves as the chief medical officer and interim director for guidelines at NICE, explained that the committee reviewed all relevant data to develop these draft recommendations.

The guidelines also advise healthcare providers to discuss gambling with people who might be at a higher risk. These individuals could be taking certain medications or suffering from neurological conditions. GPs should encourage patients to visit the NHS website to take a questionnaire. A score of 8 or more suggests the need for support and treatment.

Will Prochaska, the strategy director at the charity Gambling With Lives, supports the draft guidelines.

This draft guidance will help support people who’ve been lured into harm by the gambling industry. It’s essential healthcare professionals understand the risk gambling poses to their patients and know where to refer for evidence-based treatment. The government now needs to honor its commitment to consult on plans for the independent funding of treatment for gambling addiction.

Will ProchaskaGambling With Lives Strategy Director

Claire Murdoch, NHS mental health director, assured that the NHS would collaborate with NICE throughout the consultation. She emphasized that while this new guidance will allow the NHS to help more people, it is also critical that the gambling industry takes measures to prevent harm in the first place.

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