Under the NHS Long Term Plan, children and young adults who are seriously addicted to computer games will now be able to get help at a specialist clinic.
The organisation has announced the new service as part of the National Centre for Behavioural Addictions, which will also provide support for internet addiction and is located alongside the National Problem Gambling Clinic.
The news comes amid growing concerns about the amount of time children and teenagers spend playing online games and the impact it can have on their mental health.
The World Health Organisation has recently classified gaming disorder as a mental health condition for the first time, and the new Centre for Internet and Gaming Disorders launches at the same time as the children and young person’s gambling addiction service goes live. In addition to the new children and young people’s services opening, up to 14 new adult NHS gambling clinics are being opened nationwide.
NHS England said that psychiatrists and clinical psychologists at the services will work with patients aged between 13-25 whose lives are being wrecked by severe or complex behavioural issues associated with gaming, gambling and social media.
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said that 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 continued, “the NHS should not be left to pick up the pieces – gambling and internet firms have a responsibility to their users as well as their shareholders and should do their utmost to prevent rather than cash in on obsessive or harmful behaviour.”
Gaming disorder is defined by the World Health Organisation as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes “precedence over other life interests”.
Symptoms include impaired control over gaming, increased priority to gaming and continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences – such as the impact on relationships, social life, studying and work life or spiralling financial costs.