The cost of stop smoking services in Northumberland vs how many people actually quit
Northumberland County Council has defended its stop smoking service in the face of figures which suggest a fall in value for money in the past five years.
New NHS data, on service uptake from April to December last year, reveals that the local authority recorded only 439 successful quitters during that period.
At a total cost of £471,711, this means the council spent £1,074.51 per quitter, an increase of 52% from the £705 it was spending per quitter across the same period in 2016.
Average council spending in the North East per successful quitter was £671, up from the £579 spent in 2016.
A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said: “Stop smoking services in the region have helped thousands to quit smoking, with Northumberland in particular having helped over 36,000 to break the habit over its lifetime.
“Smoking rates continue to fall and the North East has seen one of the greatest declines in smoking prevalence despite hosting some of the regions most deprived communities.
“This success, and a reduced prevalence in the county to 12.1%, means that while numbers of potential quitters are falling, costs are rising due to the inequalities smokers suffer, and the specialist advice and treatment we have in place to support them.
“The council is committed to providing high-quality, evidence-based services for its residents and recognises the importance of stop smoking support and treatment as part of its role as strategic lead for public health in the county. Helping our residents stop smoking remains a top priority and we will continue to work towards our goal of making smoking history.
“Residents have access to a whole system of stop smoking services commissioned by the council which is based on evidence of best practice. This includes a specialist team, provision in general practice and pharmacies, training of front-line staff and stop smoking medications.
“This multi-agency approach means that smokers can access support in a variety of ways, not all of which is reported as ‘quitters’ through the NHS Digital structure, but still forms an integral part of our local provision.
“Smokers can access the service website or contact the service for a telephone conversation, for example, and if they want to commit to the structured support and treatment programme, they will be linked with an advisor who develops a bespoke quit plan with the smoker and supports them regularly throughout.”
The latest national data found that only 79,709 smokers used a local stop smoking service to help them quit between April to December 2019, whereas during the same period in 2016, the figure was 107,422 and in 2011, it was as high as 264,795.
Smoking rates in the UK have also fallen in this time though, with almost almost two million fewer smokers in 2019 than in 2011.
Recent years have also seen a significant increase in quitters using e-cigarettes, with data showing that there are now 3.6 million vapers in the UK, with 1.7 million of them having quit smoking entirely since switching to vaping.
According to a study published last year, vaping (with stop smoking service support) is twice as effective as traditional nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) gums and patches at helping people quit.
Gareth Johnson MP, vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on vaping, said: “Not only are e-cigarettes helping record numbers of smokers to quit because they’re more effective than traditional patches and gums, but they can also save the NHS, local councils and the taxpayer money if more widely used as part of local stop smoking services.
“This is an open goal and we should be doing everything we can to ensure that e-cigarettes are more accessible to the UK’s seven million remaining smokers.”
The council spokeswoman added: “The benefits of quitting smoking are well-known and if you are a smoker, quitting is the best thing you can do to improve your health. The team is ready and waiting to support you in your journey to quit smoking.”
Smokers can contact the Northumberland Stop Smoking Service on 01670 813135 or visit https://www.northumbria.nhs.uk/stopsmoking/
Update: This article was based on information provided by a PR company, Pagefield, which highlighted the NHS data reported above and included comments from the vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on vaping.
It has subsequently been revealed that this was funded by British American Tobacco (BAT), something which was not mentioned at all by the PR company in its email.
According to an article in The Guardian, a BAT UK spokesman said: "We understand that when this data was originally shared with journalists it may not have been clear it was on behalf of BAT and as soon as we became aware, we instructed our PR agency to recontact all the journalists the next day to clarify this point."
No further contact was received by us from the PR agency about this issue, but we are happy to clarify this now and explain the source of this information.