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NHS Cutbacks Impact

The NHS is facing more cutbacks and smoking cessation services stand in the firing line.

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Smoking cessation services face a battle on two fronts; on one side the NHS is desperate to making budget savings and on the other they are seeing fewer people come through their doors thanks to electronic cigarettes. But what will happen as the impact of the Tobacco Products Directive is felt? How are smokers going to be educated about the potential vaping offers if advertising is banned and the Quit centres have closed?

Last year, 64,736 attempts were made to give up smoking with the support of NHS smoking cessation services. The previous year it stood at 67,935, representing a drop of 5% - largely attributed to the growth in popularity and success of vaping.

Clinical commissioning groups (CCG), the 200-odd organisations delivering NHS services like smoking cessation, are instructing GPs to cease providing a quit service. This is because, in 2012, the responsibility was given over to local authorities. These authorities were, in turn, allocated a protected sum of money – but as councils struggle under further cuts from central government they have pulled money out of quit programmes.

ASH’s Deborah Arnott said: “We are increasingly concerned that cuts in council spending, NHS cost pressures and a lack of joined-up thinking by central government are combining to block progress on cutting smoking, still the No 1 public health challenge facing the country.”

The Guardian reports that from a briefing event last year to CCGs in Worcestershire: “Worcestershire county council will only fund a smoking cessation service for pregnant women. The CCGs have considered the implications of this decision and due to the current financial challenges are unable to commit local funding to smoking cessation services or prescribing of products to support stop smoking attempts. GPs are therefore advised that no prescriptions for nicotine replacement therapy, bupropion or varenicline should be written for new patients from 1 April 2016.”

Another area feeling the effects of this policy shift is Burton in Staffordshire. The owner of a vape store, himself a survivor of smoking-related throat cancer, used to advise quitters to attend their local service as well as using vape products

“Anybody that came in and wanted support beyond just buying an e-cigarette,” said Graham Edkins, “we could refer them to Together for Health services, and they could then, in conjunction with e-cigarettes, access nicotine replacement therapy, things like nicotine patches, and they could also get carbon monoxide tests when they got support.”

This won’t be happening any longer as My Edkins has received a letter telling him that, from April, the only support offered will be to pregnant women through their GP.

Local politician Alan White, responsible for health, care and wellbeing is reported as saying: "People in Staffordshire are living longer, but not necessarily healthier lives in our county. With less money available, we need people to take greater responsibility for their own health and wellbeing so that the council can focus our resources on those that need help the most.”

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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