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Councils cut hundreds of thousands of pounds from stop smoking services

Exclusive Councils are cutting their smoking cessation budgets by hundreds of thousands of pounds - a move that experts warn will see ‘far fewer people’ quit smoking in the coming years.

Pulse has learnt of six major metropolitan and county councils that are cutting smoking cessation budgets.

GPs have warned that this will set smoking cessation back ’15 years’.

Smoking charity ASH reported as many as 40% of local authorities will have to shrink their budget for stop smoking services.

This follows the Government’s decision to cut £200m from the public health budget last year – which it said will not result in frontline services being cut.

However, Pulse has found six councils that are cutting services:

  • Leeds City Council announced a loss of £127,000 from its tobacco control services with ‘more reductions in subsequent years’ likely due to a shortfall of £650m in public health services over the next five years;
  • Manchester City Council closed its smoking cessation service completely in October as part of what it described as a ‘redesign of all of our Wellbeing Services’;
  • In York, GPs will only those with chronic diseases will be able to access smoking cessation services from the end of March because the council is ‘working on the development of a new wellbeing service’;
  • The stop smoking service in Harrow will shrink by 7% because of ‘attacks on our funding for crucial local services,’ according to a council spokesman;
  • As previously reported, Lincolnshire County Council cut its smoking cessation services by 50% in December as part of a saving of more than £130m, claiming that more people are quitting through the use of e-cigarettes;
  • Salford City Council announced they would be cutting their budget for the service by 10% because of a drop in the number of smokers using the service due to e-cigarettes.

Data on smoking prevalence released by ONS at the end of last year shows smoking decreased in the population by just 0.4% from 2013 to 2014 compared with a decrease of 1.1% the year before.

Dr Alex Bobak, GPSI in smoking cessation at Wandsworth Medical Centre, told Pulse ‘far fewer people will stop smoking’ as a result of the cut backs with levels having already ‘plateaued’ in recent years. He also warned that, ‘90% of people who use e-cigarettes are still smoking cigarettes’.

Dr Bobak added that the cuts to these services will set smoking cessation back 15 years ‘to when the norm for quitting was just to do it yourself, which we know is up to 10 times less effective than doing it with support and treatment.’

Meanwhile, Dr John Ashcroft, an executive officer at Derbyshire LMC, told Pulse that the service in his area has ‘all but collapsed’ with GPs experiencing a 15% ‘cut in the level of payment that we are receiving per case’.

However, a Derbyshire County Council spokesperson told Pulse the cuts were ‘efficiency savings’ made when the council re-procured lifestyle services, including stop smoking services, in December 2014 and there have been no cuts since.

Amanda Sanford, information manager, at ASH described the trend of cutbacks as ‘worrying’.

She told Pulse: ‘What we know from research is that it’s a combination of using an aid such as nicotine replacement therapy and behavioural support, which makes the difference.

‘So if you’re just quitting by yourself you might have a success rate of 1-3%. If you use pharmacological aid, that doubles your chance of success and if you use behavioural support such as stop smoking services it doubles again.’

Do e-cigarettes negate the need for cessation services?

E-cigarette - online

E-cigarette - online

Two councils - Salford and Lincolnshire - claimed that the need for smoking cessation services was reduced because more people were using e-cigarettes to quit smoking.

However, a study published in the Lancet this week claimed that e-cigarettes reduce chances of quitting smoking and ‘should not be recommended as smoking cessation aids’

A meta-analysis of 18 previous observational studies and two clinical trials saw researchers concluding that smokers who also use e-cigarettes are significantly less likely to quit than those who only smoke conventional cigarettes.

Read the full story here 

Readers' comments (11)

  • The services in Derby are poor. They admit themselves they are seeing a fraction of the number of patients they did previously.

    It is difficult to get in to the scheme with high drop out rates as the follow up is poor

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  • But what about the e-cigarettes that will be available on prescription? No gp is going to prescribe so who will provide that if no smoking cessation service? Next they'll stop giving tots of alcohol out to the alcoholics. What is this country coming to?

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  • At least in Manchester, the smoking cessation can be taken up by the GP's as part of the seven day access that is so widely flouted. Seeing as one whole patient turns up at their under subscribed but overly expensive clinics, it would be perfect use of highly skilled GP's time. I hope the Manchester federation are reading this article ready to pounce, to make their unnecessary 7 day access worth while.

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  • Expect more of the same. Local authorities will cut these services because they know that CCG's will have to cough up from their so called ring-fenced health budgets.

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  • They were never going to perform this vital area of health improvement properly.
    We will now be expected to take over without additional funding.

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  • No doubt GPs are well placed to fill the gap.

    Sick to the back teeth of this nonsense.

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  • The single most effective measure that can improve somebody's health is to stop smoking and the resources to facilitate this are being removed. This is utter insanity and shows just what happens when you place public health in the hands of politicians.
    Dame Sally Davies is the country's Chief Medical Officer, i.e. the highest ranking public health doctor in our country. Instead of publishing completely unfounded and inflammatory opinions of people like Nick Summerton, why isn't Pulse asking Dame Sally to give an honest, non-political, doctor's view of this particular travesty?
    Are we ever likely to see true candour from our Public Health colleagues when they are so allied to politics and the honors system? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3241512/ “The data from the last decade suggest that the number one specialty of those individuals honoured would appear to be Public Health and Epidemiology.”
    Draw your own conclusions because if I point out the obvious my comments are likely to be moderated.

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  • If you can afford a smoking habit, you can afford to buy your own nicotine replacement. People need to take some responsibility for themselves. Long overdue.

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  • Well done 4.19. Except you can't prescribe yourself champix can you?
    Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

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  • .....which is a proven beneficial intervention but at the same time they continue to fund NHS Health Checks.

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