A local council has said it is having to slash the funding for its smoking cessation services in half due to Government cuts to the public health budget.
Lincolnshire County Council said it had cut the budget for a newly tendered smoking cessation service by 50%, with GP practices warning that large numbers of patients will no longer be able to get help to quit smoking.
The Government earlier this year told local authorities to cut services following a £200m mid-year budget cut, but claimed this would not affect frontline services.
Yesterday, chancellor George Osborne indicated further reductions are on the horizon, announcing a £13.6bn cut in the non-NHS budget, which included a 3.9% cut to public health budgets over the next 5 years
Lincolnshire has said that it has had to cut its smoking cessation service from January next year to focus on high-risk groups, because fewer smokers are now taking up the offer of help to quit.
In a statement to Pulse, Tony McGinty, consultant in public health at Lincolnshire County Council, said: ‘Lincolnshire County Council recently tendered for a new-look smoking cessation service, including a tobacco control function, for Lincolnshire… The new contract cost has been reduced by 50% in line with the council’s reduced public health budget for future years.’
Mr McGinty said the service would focus on groups ‘who will most benefit from stopping smoking’, such as pregnant women, people undergoing surgery and those with long-term conditions.
He added: ‘There will still be support available to the wider population to stop smoking, however there is a national decline in smokers accessing stop smoking services.’
However, Dr Andrew Pilbeam, a GP in Grantham, told Pulse GP practices were concerned the move would mean large numbers of patients would miss out on smoking cessation treatments.
Dr Pilbeam said: ‘Local prescribing guideline advise to only prescriber NRT or other medication via the setting of a smoking cessation program, which as far as I can tell will be absent for those not in the high risk groups listed. We will therefore no longer prescribe smoking cessation products to a large patient group.’
Experts in addiction management have been urging Councils to stop slashing budgets, which they say is at least partly why fewer people accessing smoking services, warning the cutbacks will end up costing them more even in the short-term due to smoking-related health problems.