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Independents' Day

GP stop-smoking support 'ineffective'

Support offered by practices to smokers trying to kick the habit is totally ineffective, a study has concluded.

The researchers urged GPs to scrap attempts to support patients at the practice and to refer them to specialist services instead.But the recommendation may be hard to apply, with experts warning that cuts have left many smoking cessation services overstretched.The study, published online by Thorax, found quit rates after weekly or basic behavioural support from primary care nurses was no better than with nicotine replacement therapy alone.Study leader Dr Paul Aveyard, senior lecturer in primary care at the University of Birmingham, said GPs should prescribe more NRT and refer patients to specialist support services. 'The behavioural support element is not really all that effective,' he said.Leading smoking cessation expert Professor Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London, said this 'extremely important' study reinforced evidence that behavioural support in primary care had no effect.'I do not think GPs should be trying to offer behavioural support – they should prescribe and refer to specialists,' he said.But some experts said stop-smoking services were struggling to cope.Dr Linda Bauld, reader in social policy at the University of Bath, said: 'A lot of PCTs have frozen or cut budgets this year. Some services have lost staff who have not been replaced. Everyone is seeing higher demand – particularly from workplaces.'

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