40,000 healthcare professionals trained to help smokers quit

Public Health England event in Birmingham promotes government tobacco control plan and the drive to make the NHS smoke-free by 2019

Public Health England (PHE) today (3 November 2017) confirmed that nearly 40,000 healthcare professionals have been trained to offer quit smoking advice as part of a drive to make the NHS smoke-free by 2019. An event today in Birmingham, held by PHE, will promote the new government tobacco control plan to stop-smoking workers across the country, with a keynote address from the Public Health and Primary Care Minister, Steve Brine MP.

In support of the plan, PHE is urging all NHS frontline staff to take advantage of free online training to help them give ‘very brief advice on smoking’ (VBA). The evidence shows that giving VBA to patients makes them 68% more likely to quit if they’re offered stop smoking medication. So far, 39,447 healthcare professionals have been trained to deliver effective stop smoking advice.

The burden to the NHS in England from smoking is £2.6 billion. Last year over half a million people ended up in hospital due to a smoking attributable condition. There is an urgent need across all parts of the NHS to support people to quit to improve the health of local populations and help secure the sustainability of the NHS.

The savings to the NHS for each patient referred to stop smoking services and prescribed nicotine replacement therapy is £13.00 each year for 4 years.

NHS England is investing almost £600 million in commissioning for quality and innovation (CQUIN) schemes, including one which focuses on identifying and supporting people who smoke or who drink alcohol at higher risk levels. Under the scheme, additional funding is being made available to hospitals that help their patients to quit smoking.

PHE is encouraging all healthcare staff to undertake a 30-minute online course, provided by the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training, based around short film clips providing examples of how very brief advice can be delivered to patients; including key facts, figures and messages.

Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at PHE, said:

"Every year smoking costs the NHS a staggering £2.6billion, with over half a million people ending up in hospital due to a smoking attributable condition.

"Smokers respond particularly well to our advice, so as health professionals we have a duty to take every opportunity to prevent the misery and suffering we know is caused by smoking.

"A smoke-free NHS is about helping smokers to quit while in the care of the NHS. It means all healthcare professionals doing what they can to encourage patients to stop, including offering on the spot support to fight cravings and banning smoking on NHS grounds.

"The good news is that training for NHS staff is easily accessible and effective. Quit rates generally are also better than they have ever been. Most smokers want to quit and all healthcare staff should feel confident in having that crucial brief chat with a patient about smoking. Patients who smoke should expect to be asked whether they’d like to quit."

Public Health Minister, Steve Brine said:

"Smoking rates are at their lowest ever levels but it is still our biggest preventable killer.

"We now have strong laws helping people to quit and we need the NHS and its incredible staff to commit to a smokefree NHS. By making this powerful statement, the NHS can lead the way, drive down smoking rates even further and provide the best support to the 1 in 4 patients who are smokers. Our new Tobacco Control Plan is aiming for the first ever smokefree generation and the NHS has a huge role to play in that."

There has never been a better time for people to quit and for healthcare professionals to discuss quitting with their patients. The ban on attractive branding on packs, together with better and more quitting options including e-cigarettes, stricter controls on smoking in public and supportive campaigns like PHE’s Stoptober have all contributed to successful quit attempts in the first 6 months of this year being at a record high, with almost 20% remaining smokefree a year after quitting.