Call for NHS organisations to sign smokefree pledge

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A North East doctor and Fresh, the regional programme for tobacco control, were in Parliament today at the launch of a new call for the NHS to do more to help prevent hospital admissions and deaths from smoking.

NHS organisations across the country are being urged to sign the NHS Smokefree Pledge to support patients to quit and create tobacco free environments that help them to stop.

The pledge has been developed by the Smokefree Action Coalition and endorsed by Steve Brine MP, the public health minister, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, and other health leaders.

It supports work in the North East, where a Smokefree NHS/Treating Tobacco Dependency taskforce has been set up to work with NHS Trusts to ensure all patients who smoke are offered support to quit.

The commitments in the pledge include:

• Treat tobacco dependency among patients and staff who smoke, as set out in the Tobacco Control Plan for England.

• Ensure that all hospital patients have access to the medication they need to quit in line with guidance from NICE – The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – on smoking in secondary care.

• Create environments that support quitting through smokefree policies as recommended by NICE.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “A patient who continues to smoke has a one-in-two chance of being killed by tobacco addiction unless they quit.

“As well as treating immediate conditions, doctors, nurses and GPs are in a unique position alter the course of a patient’s long-term health.

“The North East has set a vision of five per cent of people smoking by 2025 and if we are to get there, the NHS must play a strong prevention role.

“The evidence is strong that tackling smoking is cost effective and can save the NHS millions of pounds.”

In the North East, smoking results in 104 hospital admissions every day and more than 38,000 a year.

A report by the British Thoracic Societ in 2016 found that support to quit smoking is not routinely offered to patients, with nearly three out of four patients not asked if they would like to quit and only one in 13 patients who smoke referred to stop smoking support.

In the North East, a regional initiative to tackle smoking in pregnancy by helping midwives to raise the issue with women who smoke helped reduce maternal smoking from 22 per cent to 16 per cent, and resulted in a doubling of quitting rates among women who smoke.

Helping to launch the Smokefree Pledge in Parliament was Dr Tony Branson, consultant oncologist with Newcastle Hospitals and clinical lead for the Northern Cancer Alliance.

He said: “Tobacco is the single biggest cause of cancer, kills smokers on average 10 years early and is one of the main causes of hospital admissions.

“As providers of healthcare, we must be more proactive in asking about smoking and offering help and support to quit.

“The NHS is more stretched than ever before, but treating tobacco dependency is one of the single most effective ways we can improve outcomes for patients and reduce the chances of them being re-admitted to hospital.

“This is a vital opportunity for the NHS to tackle this issue and help us reduce the burden of smoking related diseases on our wards and across local communities.”