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Tailored risk advice increased patient uptake of stop smoking services

Offering smokers a ‘taster’ session on how to quit along with tailored risk information doubled the likelihood of their going on to attend NHS stop smoking services, a study has shown.

The randomised trial, published this week in the Lancet , included over 4,000 smokers registered at 99 GP practices.

Just over 2,600 patients were sent a personalised letter including information about their individual risk, along with an invitation to attend an introductory session at a stop smoking service, while the remaining patients – around 1,750 – were sent the usual generic letter advertising the local stop smoking service.

The tailored risk information was derived from the patient’s smoking habits and medical records, which was then used to predict their risk of developing serious illness relative to a non-smoker or ex-smoker of the same age.

The research team, led by academics at University College London, found 17% of patients who received the personalised information attended the first session at an NHS stop smoking service, compared with just 9% of those who received a generic invitation.

Patients in the intervention group were also more likely to have completed the full six-week course of sessions and to have achieved seven days of abstinence at six months.

Although the personalised approach was more costly than the standard invite in the short term, the researchers pointed out it was likely to be more cost efficient over a lifetime.

The team concluded: ‘Our findings suggest that a programme in general practice of proactive recruitment using personal tailored letters and introductory sessions can more than double the odds of attending the [stop smoking service], and lead to increased quit rates.’

The researchers warned that the closure of stop smoking services is undermining the help available for people to quit, however.

‘Efforts to reverse this trend should be a priority, because services offer smokers a substantially higher chance of stopping smoking than does attempting to quit without support,’ they wrote.

As reported by Pulse last year, the number of smokers successfully quitting through stop smoking services has fallen for the last four years in a row, prompting concern that funding cuts to cessation services could cause this number to fall even further.

Lancet 2017; available online 24 January



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