The NHS is opening a clinic to treat people aged 13 to 25 for videogame addiction. This follows the World Health Organisation officially recognising gaming disorder (opens in new tab) as a disease earlier this year.
Part of the National Centre for Behavioural Addictions in London, the clinic is the first of its kind, at least provided by the NHS. Starting today, people can be referred to the clinic, while treatment will begin next month. Though it's in London, patients will also be able to have consultations online, over Skype.
"Health needs are constantly changing, which is why the NHS must never stand still," said Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England. "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."
Stevens added that the games industry also has a responsibility to its users to prevent addiction. The Royal College of Nursing echoed this sentiment in a statement of its own.
"Whilst the NHS has a duty of care and is adapting to these modern challenges, it, and taxpayers, can’t foot the bill alone," said Fiona Smith, professional lead for Children and Young People at the RCN. "Online gaming firms and global social media firms who make millions of pounds of profit must take more responsibility by keeping their platforms safe, and introduce safeguards to reduce the burden on the health service."
Smith also raised the issue of nursing vacancies, which could pose a challenge for the new service. The clinic will require mental health nurses, but there are currently 40,000 nursing positions waiting to be filled just in England.
In May, WHO classified gaming disorder as an addictive behaviour that causes "significant significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning." In a joint statement, the ESA, UKIE and other games industry bodies said the organisation didn't have enough evidence to justify the classification.
A Canadian legal firm is currently seeking authorisation to begin a class action lawsuit against Epic Games (opens in new tab) over the alleged risk of addiction to young people playing Fortnite. The firm, Calex Légal, also cites the WHO classification in the request and believes Epic has a responsibility to warn players about dangers to their health.
Cheers, National Health Executive (opens in new tab).