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Stop cutting back on smoking cessation services, expert warns councils

Local authorities must stop stripping back NHS Stop Smoking services in GP practices, a leading expert on smoking cessation has warned.

Professor Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London and leading researcher on addiction, said national trends indicate public health commissioners are disinvesting in the services and this could continue as public spending cuts bite further.

Speaking at the UK Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Conference in Manchester, Professor West warned this would be counter-productive and could end up costing local authorities more – even in the relatively short term.

Official figures showed there was a 20% drop in the number of people going through NHS Stop Smoking services, and the number successfully quitting smoking, last year compared with 2012/13.

This was the second consecutive year that the figures had gone down – after a general upward trend up to 2011.

Professor West told Pulse that the ‘worrying’ decline could continue as local councils face even tighter budget restrictions.

Professor West said: ‘The worrying national trend is that extremely hard-pressed local authorities are having to make impossible choices… and that’s going to get worse over the next few years.’

He urged local government commissioners to look at evidence which showed that providing quality stop smoking support is cost-saving, even in the short term.

Professor West said: ‘If you cut the amount you spend per treated smoker below a certain level, they are not going to get enough support to make it worth it at all. However, if you do it properly you can get the money back in terms of resources recovered within the first couple of years – so it does lead to reductions in GP attendances by smokers and in unplanned admissions, and a reduction in medication budgets.’

He added: ‘It also provides savings within a couple of years for the local economy because of days off work.’

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Our local councils commissioned service for 2015/16 was prepared without discussion with Primary Care , hence it was not worth doing. Up to 2 hours nurses time with the possibility of funds only if the fickled patients turn up and quit. If they don't then no monies received, so very few practices signed up!

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  • Same story in Derbyshire
    Council gave contract to the community trust who cut the LES payments to even lower levels than they were already.
    So we have stopped clinics after 10years.
    Shame but we aren't a charity.
    Patients now have to travel to another town needing 2 buses.... Will not help health inequalities.

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  • Stopped doing this when the cost to bid for the tender in Worcestershire cost more than a years income from the scheme. The training requirement burden made it totally uneconomic. Waste of time dealing with Councils, who have no interest in public health for those that really need it and the ability to target the right patients.

    Never mind that we'd previously run smoking services successfully, councils put their own barriers in and want a full procurement process. When will they learn that smoking cessation is not all our income and while we'd like to offer it, we can't run it as a loss leader and for the good of our heart.

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