NHS opens dedicated clinic for video game-addicted children

The NHS says it is responding to an 'emerging problem'

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

GPs are now able to refer computer game-addicted youngsters to the country's first specialist NHS clinic for gaming disorders.

The Centre for Internet and Gaming Disorders, open to 13-to-25-year-olds, is accepting referrals from today, with treatment starting next month.

Referred patients can either attend in person, or have an online consultation via Skype.

The clinic will form part of the National Centre for Behavioural Addictions in London.

The World Health Organisation has recently classified "gaming disorder" as a mental health condition for the first time.

It describes the condition as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes “precedence over other life interests”.

Symptoms include lack of control over gaming and placing it as a huge priority at the expense of other things, including relationships, social life and studying.

It is “not a mental illness to be taken lightly”, according to Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, director of the Centre for Internet and Gaming Disorders and a spokeswoman from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

"We are talking about instances where someone may spend up to 12 hours a day playing computer games and can end up becoming socially isolated and lose their job as a result. I am delighted to be leading this new clinic."

NHS chief executive, Simon Stevens, said: “Health needs are constantly changing which is why the NHS must never stand still - this new service is a response to an emerging problem, part of the increasing pressures that children and young people are exposed to these days.”

However, he called on gambling and internet firms to “prevent rather than cash in on obsessive or harmful behaviour”, saying the NHS should not “be left to pick up the pieces”.

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