GambleAware’s first detailed reports on Scottish and Welsh users of the National Gambling Treatment Service (NGTS) reveal that more than half of those that complete treatment are no longer classed as problem gamblers.
Furthermore, treatment significantly improved individuals’ Problem Gambling Severity Index (PSGI) score. This uses answers to 12 questions to class players as non-problem, low-risk, moderate-risk or problem gamblers.
In Scotland, 90% those that completed treatment over the year from 30 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 saw their PSGI score improve, while in Wales 94% showed an improvement.
During that year, 296 Scottish residents were treated within the NGTS, compared to 271 in Wales. Of these Scottish patients, 77% were male, while in Wales 68% of those treated were men.
In both countries, online adoption has accelerated in the past five years. Between 2015-16 and 2019-20 the percentage of players grew from 52% to 70% in Scotland, and from 65% to 69% in Wales, making it by far the most popular channel.
In each case, bookmakers were the next most popular gambling outlets, though usage declined in the same timescale. The number of Scottish gamblers betting via bookies fell from 54% to 42%, while in Wales this number dropped from 47% to 33%.
In Scotland, service users’ average monthly spend before assessment came to £1,588, with 63% having fallen into debt as a result of gambling. This fell to £1,330 in Wales, though a slightly higher percentage (65%) had debts due to their activity.
Both countries’ average spend in the month before assessment fell below that of the UK, which stood at £2,102.
Those treated in Scotland were more likely to self-refer, with 92% of the individuals seeking help themselves. This dropped to 84% in Wales. However in Wales, professional referrals, such as those from doctors, were significantly higher than in the rest of the UK.
In total 4% of referrals to the NGTS in Wales were made by professionals, compared to 1.5% across the UK as a whole.
Treatment in Scotland, however, lasted for an average of five weeks, while Welsh treatment ran for double this time.
Both countries saw the majority of patients complete their treatment, though Welsh patients were far more likely to do so. Of those to ended treatment in Wales in 2019-20, 80% completed all scheduled sessions, compared to 58% in Scotland.
However in each case, there were significant improvements in the percentage of individuals completing treatment, and ending treatment with an improved PSGI score.
Between 2015-16 and 2019-20, the number of Welsh patients completing treatment rose from 64% to 80% with PSGI scores improving by a median of 14 points between their earlier and last appointments.
Of these individuals, 57% were no longer classed as problem gamblers at the end of their treatment. Their Core-10 score, which measures an individual’s psychological distress by asking them ten questions and giving them a score between 0 to 40, also improved significantly, with 58% no longer in acute distress.
In Scotland, the percentage of patients completing treatment rose from 51% to 58%, and PSGI scores improved by a median of 12 points. This meant 54% were no longer classed as problem players, while 54% of clients were classed as under the clinical cut-off on the CORE-10 scale.
GambleAware did note that 29% of patients in Scotland dropped out before the scheduled end of their treatment. Wales’ drop-out rate was almost half that of Scotland, at 15%, though in both cases GambleAware said this did not necessarily mean they had returned to gambling.
“It is possible for service users to drop out of one treatment in favour of another, however further research and follow up is necessary to determine drop-out cause,” it noted.
Lisa-Marie Patton, team leader at GamCare Scotland, said the country’s results showed how treatment can make a real difference to people’s lives.
As a result, Patton continued, efforts were underway to ensure the NGTS was available to the widest possible number of people.
“Better links with health and social care services will help us to connect more people with the treatment that they need for gambling harms,” she said.
Diana Yorath, Wales development officer for the Addiction Recovery Agency added that it was dedicated to increasing uptake in the NGTS across the country.
“We are actively collaborating with NHS partners to improve referral routes to ensure individuals have access to the best treatment for them,” Yorath said. “Alongside this, we are working to build awareness both of gambling harms and of the NGTS and helpline through engaging with grassroot community initiatives.”
The country-specific reports follow GambleAware releasing its first detailed report on the NGTS in the UK, in October 2020.
A survey that the number of individuals competing treatment rose from 59% in 2015-16 to 69% in 2019-20, of whom 90% saw their PSGI scores improve. As with Scotland and Wales, the majority of players (69%) tended to gamble online, compared to 38% gambling via bookmakers.