Opportunity for hospitals to help smokers quit

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh.Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh.
Hospitals in the North East are making progress to help people quit smoking, but will need to play a greater role in the future to reduce pressure on wards and bed spaces.

That is the response from Fresh as a major new report released last week by the British Thoracic Society (BTS) shows many hospitals across the UK are not doing enough to support smokers to stop smoking.

In the North East, the main five diseases linked to smoking are estimated to cause 101,600 hospital admissions and outpatient appointments and around 445,400 GP appointments every year.

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Also in the region, the NHS has made significant progress in supporting pregnant women to quit smoking through the babyClear initiative, helping to cut rates by nearly a third since 2009 and faster than the national average.

With high smoking rates and rates of smoking-related illness in people with mental-health problems, the region’s two mental-health trusts have also implemented NICE guidance, helping many to quit.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “Every year, thousands of people in the North East are admitted to hospital to be treated for diseases such as heart disease, cancer and respiratory disorders caused by smoking.

“Given the scale of the harm caused by smoking and the pressures on the NHS, it is clear that hospitals must play a leading role in supporting patients to quit right from the time they are admitted. Many people who smoke see it as an addiction and quitting smoking should be seen as an essential part of a patient’s treatment. That will not only save lives but reduce the costs to the NHS.

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“We have seen some fantastic examples of work here in the North East helping women who are pregnant and supporting people with mental-health problems to stop. Our NHS staff are passionate about health and we need to support them to be supporting smokers to quit right across the system.”

The BTS’s recommendations for all hospitals include:

• Offering a prescription for Nicotine Replacement Therapy to all patients who smoke to help them cope whilst in hospital.

• Refer all patients who smoke in hospital to specialised stop smoking support services to explore the option of quitting smoking. With many smoking-related conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), support and medication to help people quit smoking are the best front line treatments.

• Employ smoking cessation practitioners in every hospital – this was recommended by NICE in 2013, but the report shows patchy delivery across the country.