Supplementary memorandum submitted by Professor Jim Orford
I should like to submit a couple of points which it has occurred to me I wanted to make at the oral hearing on Tuesday 11 June, but there was not the opportunity! They both concern the Gambling Trust.
As an academic researcher with a particular interest in gambling and problem gambling, I would like to make two points about the Gambling Trust for which the gambling industry is currently trying to raise voluntary contributions. The first, to back-up others who have made the same point, concerns the crucial importance of the Trust's independence. Standards of independence in research have risen in recent years, and there are now very clear conventions (eg the Farmington Consensus) about how the choice of research topics, carrying out of the research, and the publishing of its results, must be completely unconfounded by commercial interests. Such rules have been hammered out with great care, for example, in the fields of pharmaceuticals and alcohol and tobacco research. It would now be difficult to get the best researchers to accept research contracts if they thought there was to be any influence of an industry that stood to make a profit out of the activity being researched. It would also be difficult to get results published in the highest standard publications. If the gambling field is to establish itself as a serious area of research, rather than one that is very marginal as at present, then it is important that it adopts the same standards. For that reason I am very critical of the Budd proposals, which served to suggest that representatives of the gambling industry should be involved on the Committee that decided what research should be carried out. Of course one understands that the gambling industry, if it has been asked to voluntarily contribute funds, should have a say in how those funds are spent, but they must understand that complete independence is the best way to get good research carried out, and the Government must be quite clear with the industry about that.
My second point concerns the size of the intended Trust fund. Although £3 million may sound like a lot of money, my understanding is that this is intended to be the major source of funding for services for problem gamblers (such as those currently offered by GamCare) and for all types of research, including research on the causes of problem gambling and on its treatment. That being the case, I would like to point out that £3 million is in fact a very small and inadequate amount of money. Just to give one example, I have been an investigator on a Medical Research Council funded trial of treatment for alcohol problems. It is a collaboration between three clinical centres around England and Wales, and two further centres involved in statistics and health economics. A trial on that scale is the standard now required, for example to meet the requirements of the Cochrane review process. The total cost of that project over four and a half years was just short of £1,500,000, and that was just one piece of treatment research.
One final point, related to the above, is the need for the future involvement of the Department of Health. I can understand that DoH might be reluctant to take on yet another topic, hard pressed as it is, but the Budd Committee and DCMS proposals made it quite clear that the NHS has a responsibility for providing treatment.
24 June 2002