The journey to becoming a doctor starts with the completion of chemistry, biology, and either physics, physical science or maths A-Levels. Then there’s five years of university study before embarking on two years of foundation training, two years of core medical training and then up to six years of speciality training.
In addition, doctors have to sign up to obtaining continuing professional development points by paying for their own on-going training. Something has gone awry with this final step when it comes to tobacco-related harm reduction. A survey by Jo Brett et al has revealed some shocking figures.
Public Health England, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Nursing have all put out information regarding vaping being considerably safer than smoking – but a sizeable number of practitioners remain in the dark for some reason.
The survey covered 506 people; this broke down to 103 GPs, 102 oncologists, 100 cancer surgeons, 103 practice nurses and 99 cancer nurse specialists.
29% of all health professionals would not recommend e-cigarettes to cancer patients who smoke, with cancer surgeons and cancer nurse specialists significantly less likely to recommend e-cigarettes.
38% believed colleagues would feel uncomfortable about recommending e-cigarettes to cancer patients.
The majority of respondents reported that e-cigarettes were either banned or only allowed in designated tobacco smoking areas in both primary and secondary care.
46% of all health professionals reported their organisation did not have guidance on e-cigarettes, with 45% saying they were unsure.
Over half of HPs believed their knowledge was not sufficient to recommend e-cigarettes to cancer patients
25% did not know whether e-cigarettes were less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes.
The Independent British Vape Trade Association said: “There is never a situation where it is better to smoke than it is to vape so headlines like this in 2018 are deeply concerning.”
INNCO commented: “Given that the U.K. government and the National Health Service recommend them ~ it’s not good enough! If it was your Mother/Son etc. and they were given wrong info, that 30%-ish failure rate would matter a great deal!”
Confusion among health professionals is caused by the likes of Martin McKee and Simon Capewell. Public health’s equivalent of The Chuckle Brothers have written in the British Medical Journal to say, “there is no reliable evidence to show that e-cigarettes are safe or that they did not provide a ‘gateway’ to smoking for youngsters.”
Martin Dockrell said: "E-cigarettes aren't risk free but they are far less harmful than tobacco and it's important for healthcare professionals to talk to patients about this. That's why as part of our NHS Smokefree campaign, we're encouraging professionals to take free, online courses offered by the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training."
Linda Bauld added: “Although we have evidence to show that e-cigarettes are a substantially less harmful alternative to smoking tobacco for cancer patients, this survey highlights that not all health professionals know this. They are unsure how to talk to cancer patients who smoke about e-cigarettes. It also suggests that doctors and nurses need better information and clearer policies to guide their discussions with patients.”