06 April 2023

The Importance of Addressing Stigma in Healthcare Training for Gambling Harm

The Importance of Addressing Stigma in Healthcare Training for Gambling Harm

We urge the Government to treat gambling harm as a public health issue in more than just a name. 

Today we are proud to announce that the BMJ published our Healthcare Training Review looking at how gambling harm is taught to healthcare workers and frontline staff. A Review of Gambling Healthcare Training – Tackling Gambling Stigma

Gambling harms have long been a topic of concern, not only for individuals experiencing gambling difficulties but also for the impact they have on families, communities, and society as a whole. However, many people affected by gambling harm struggle to ask for help due to shame and stigma. Unfortunately, this stigma is not only present in society but also in healthcare, where individuals often report a lack of understanding from healthcare professionals and a worsening of their shame and stigma as a result.

As such, we at Tackling Gambling Stigma were asked to review healthcare training material about gambling harm for healthcare professionals and frontline workers.

The purpose of the review was to evaluate healthcare training for gambling difficulties from the perspective of stigma and make recommendations for the development and improvement of existing and future training programmes. We examined the extent to which training addressed the issue of stigma, the impact of language and constructions of the problem of gambling harm on stigmatising or destigmatising individuals, and the representation of individuals with lived experience. We analysed existing materials, including three training programmes, one training programme curriculum, and one competency framework.

While the report outlines clear recommendations for improvement, the aim of the report is not to point at or criticise any organisation. More than anything, this report highlights what happens when the Government abdicates responsibility.

In our previous blog post we shared with you our letter to the DCMS and their response, in which they mention efforts to build capacity in the healthcare workforce by an industry funded charity. Our findings clearly show that this is an inadequate response.

We urge the Government to treat gambling harm as a public health issue in more than just a name.

The absence of clear guidance and leadership from the government has resulted in a fragmented, inconsistent, and sometimes ill-founded approach, undermining the effectiveness of the efforts of the material analysed and potentially causing more harm than good.

The key findings of the review were as follows:

  • Several organizations offer free training to healthcare professionals, including online guides, eLearning courses, online workshops, and face-to-face workshops. However, many of these materials lacked clear authorship and did not declare any conflicts of interest, including gambling industry funding.
  • The inclusion of individuals with lived experience in the development and delivery of training materials varied, with some programmes making notable progress in this area.
  • Many of the resources did not define gambling or provide information on the nature and extent of commercial gambling practices and products.
  • The language used in many of the training materials was stigmatising and blamed individuals for the harm they experienced, removing accountability from the gambling industry and regulators.
  • Issues of public policy and regulation, as well as social, economic, and environmental factors impacting gambling harm were often missing from the training materials.
  • The use of the term “vulnerable groups” perpetuated the notion that gambling harm only affects a small minority of individuals, rather than recognizing it as a widespread problem.
  • There was limited information on how healthcare workers can support individuals affected by another’s’ gambling and little discussion of the impact of gambling on children and young people.
  • In some cases, stigma was explicitly addressed in the materials, but the focus was primarily on self-stigma rather than the broader societal stigma surrounding gambling difficulties.

Ultimately, it is imperative that the government take a proactive and responsible role in addressing gambling harm by providing clear and comprehensive guidance, resources, and support to both frontline workers and organisations working to help those in need. By doing so, we can ensure that everyone affected by gambling harm receives the quality care and support they deserve.