The parents of a Swindon man who took his own life due to a gambling addiction say much more could be done to tackle the problem.

Joshua Jones was just 23 when he jumped from the ninth floor balcony of his office at PricewaterhouseCoopers in London in July 2016.

Kim and Martin Jones have spoken out after a new NHS’s long-term plan was unveiled, including specialist face-to-face NHS treatment for gambling addiction in young people at 14 new clinics across the country.

Statistics published by the Gambling Commission at the end of 2018 reveal the number of child gamblers aged from 11 to 16 with a problem have quadrupled to over 50,000. And 70,000 youngsters were found to be at risk, if not directly classed as a problem, and 450,000 children bet regularly.

On average children stake £16 a week on fruit machines, betting shops, bingo and online games which are all illegal for under 18s.

Following these figures, the government announced the first NHS gambling clinic for children will open.

The first will open in Leeds this summer, followed by clinics in Manchester and Sunderland. The National Problem Gambling Clinic in London will also offer specialist help to young people aged between 13-25 years old.

But there will still be no service in Swindon, with the nearest clinic likely to be in London.

“The NHS could do more,”Joshua’s mum Kim said.

Joshua was addicted to online gambling and an inquest revealed he owed £30,000 in total to the bank, pay-day lenders and friends and family at time of his death.

Mrs Jones said: “We welcome the announcement that the NHS will open a new gambling clinic for children and young adults.

“This is certainly needed as only two per cent of the 340,000 adults and 55,000 children who are gambling addicts receive treatment at present.

“Doubling the capacity to four per cent will help, but the other 14 clinics are needed urgently as well.

“But even the London Gambling Clinic only suggests it has a 70 per cent success rate, and the prospects for the remaining 30 per cent who fail to respond to treatment are bleak.”

Joshua was undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy for his addiction at the time of his death.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national director for mental health said the clinics have “the potential to be a major turning point and are all about making sure the NHS does everything it can to help people of all ages, who are seriously addicted to gambling.

“There is already a big push to transform mental health services across the board for children and young people and the specific focus on gambling related addiction is the logical next step, particularly given the explosion of online gambling.”

However Mrs Jones considers much more needs to be done to tackle the issue, including adopting NICE Guidelines for the treatment of gambling addiction.

She added: “This is an obvious deficiency in the tools needed for treatment.

“ It would provide GPs and other professionals with a handbook on how best to tackle gambling addiction.”

NICE guidelines are evidence-based recommendations, setting out the care and services suitable for those with a specific condition or need.

Mrs Jones added: “Although there was a potential NICE project for such guidelines in 2018, it didn’t make it through the shortlisting process to get actioned.

“This now needs urgent attention as well as the new clinics,” she said.

Mrs Jones has urged Robert Buckland, who has recently become Secretary of State for Justice, to introduce gambling as a cause of death that can be recorded by coroners.

“His predecessors have all put this issue in the “too difficult” file, we urge him not to do so.

“This would then provide an accurate evidence base of which to make future policy.”

Why is gambling addictive?

Gambling can become extremely addictive, and Joshua Jones told his parents that once he had been lying on his bed shaking and trying to resist the urge to place a bet on his telephone.

It’s addictive nature is partly due to the way our brains are adapted to ensure our evolutionary survival.

Experts say gambling affects the primitive part of the brain that is geared towards immediate gains, and is adapted to cope in an environment where humans would get a big emotional reward for hunting an animal.

This reward comes in the form of the release of the chemical dopamine in the brain that makes us feel good.

Addictive substances such as alcohol, drugs and gambling feed this section of the brain, causing the production of this chemical.

Frequently using such substances causes the brain to become so flooded with dopamine that it eventually adapts by producing less and so also becomes less responsive to its effects. Thus the addict muct engage even more in the behaviour to get the desired response.

When deprived of a dopamine producing stimulant for too long long individuals who are severely addicted can experience withdrawal symptoms, including feeling physically ill, not being able to sleep and shaking uncontrollably.

Gambling addiction is thought to run in families, as some people are genetically predisposed to prefer instant rewards.

It is often treated with cognitive-behaviour therapy, which helps to train addicts to resist unwanted thoughts and habits.

Gambling firms' offer of 1% profits 'not good enough'

The UK’s biggest gambling firms have recently offered to increase the money they contribute to the government for tackling the issue of problem gambling.

The owners of Coral Ladbroke, Betfair Paddy Power,William Hill, Skybet and Bet 365 are willing to increase the voluntary levy that currently stands at 0.1% of their gambling profits, to o 1% over the next five years.

This would ultimately provide £100m per year for gambling charities, whereas last year only £10m was raised.

However the move has still drawn criticism for failing to go far enough.

Mrs Jones said: “The recent offer by the top five companies to increase this up to 1% over the next five years is simply not good enough.

“There should be a mandatory 1% levy on all gambling companies now.

“Why is the government dragging its feet on this obviously sensible measure?” she added.

“How many more of the 30% [of gambling addicts] who fail to respond to treatment are going to take their own lives in the meantime?”

Mr and Mrs Jones are calling for the funding for gambling research, education and treatment to be put on secure and arm’s length basis.

“With a gambling industry that makes an annual net profit of £14.4bn, and a state which takes £3bn in gambling tax, it is outrageous that research education and treatment has had to muddle along with a mere £10m a year,” said Mrs Jones.