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Gambling risks

The Royal Society of Public Health has called for a reduction in the maximum bet that can be placed in one game on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2. FOBTs have been described as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling, with their capacity to be played rapidly and repeatedly representing a serious addiction risk. There are over 30,000 FOBTs on high streets across the UK, on which regular players spend an average of £1,209 annually. This is considerably higher than the average £427 spent annually on over the counter bets such as those on horse racing and other sports.

The RSPH is concerned that gambling on FOBTs is fueling financial problems, which in turn is damaging the health and wellbeing of users in a variety of ways, from poor mental health and an increased risk of suicide to the breakdown of personal relationships. Its’ report can be found at Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – Assessing the Impact.

Kings College London has also published a review of research evidence about gambling-related harm experienced by people with dementia, mental health problems, learning disabilities and other cognitive impairments (such as acquired head injury). You can read it at:


Where is the spare capacity?

NHS England’s Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View (published on March 31st) effectively abandons the 18 week target for elective surgery. The commercial sector was quick to point out that it had spare capacity to treat NHS patients – at a cost set by the NHS – and that it could play an important role in helping meet elective surgery waiting time targets.

Fiona Booth, AIHO Chief Executive said: “The NHS has had to make some difficult decisions on how to balance available funding between growing service demands. However it’s important to remember the independent sector has capacity to help the NHS deliver services for patients. Providing timely hip and knee operations benefits the whole economy. Our recent ‘Joint Working’ report showed that hip and knee operations being carried out by the independent sector contributed an estimated £540 to £692 million to the UK economy each year through reduced employee sick days, knock-on business productivity, welfare and benefit savings, and savings to the NHS. These savings demonstrate that it’s in everyone’s interest to ensure people are still receiving quick access to elective operations”

It’s not just a matter of beds and theatre time. ‘Next Steps’ makes commitments around developing 150 Urgent Treatment Centres, introducing new multi-disciplinary Rapid Diagnostic and Assessment Centres and supporting hospitals sort out delayed discharges. David Hare, speaking for NHS Partners, the trade association representing the widest range of independent sector providers of NHS clinical services, said: “We believe that the independent sector has a key role to play in all three of these areas. We also welcome the commitment that ‘third party experts’ will be deployed to support with population health management capabilities within Accountable Care Systems”.

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