This site is intended for health professionals only

Stop smoking services could do better, concludes analysis

Stop smoking services have aided over 21,000 people to quit long-term since 2001 finds a new study, but the researchers pointed out that quit rates are still were well short of what would be expected from an ‘optimum service’.

Abstinence rates at stop smoking services have declined slightly in recent years, with around a third of smokers quitting at four weeks, shows the first large scale study of their benefit.

Randomised, controlled trials indicate that when the service is provided optimally, 50% of smokers should stop for four weeks, compared with the 15% expected among those who do not have support.

But this analysis shows that quit rates at four weeks from stop smoking services in England have reduced recently from 35% in 2001/02 to 34% in 2010/11.

The study – published in the BMJ today – showed stop smoking services had effectively reached disadvantaged smokers, with 54% of those on the smoking cessation scheme receiving free prescriptions in 2010/11.

They concluded: ‘Over 10 years of operation, the English stop smoking services have increased their reach and impact threefold.

‘However, considerable variability in outcomes exists across local areas.’

Dr Alex Bobak, a GP in Wandsworth, London and a GPSI in smoking cessation, said that the quit rates found in the study reflect the level of basic training for health professionals in smoking cessation.

He said: ‘Smoking cessation is about the most cost effective and clinically effective intervention in healthcare and yet all too often it is still poorly delivered.

‘The quality of stop smoking advisors is variable and patient pathways to stop smoking and basic knowledge among the medical and nursing profession on smoking cessation tends to be poor.’

‘It needs to be established as a medical speciality as for any other chronic condition with easily accessible, high quality evidence based, specialist care.’

The research comes after GPs were advised they could should offer nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to smokers who refuse to quit in order to help them cut down the amount they smoke, according to new NICE guidance aimed at helping more people kick the habit.