Stop smoking services encourage more GPs to help smokers quit

Cancer Research UK

Clinics to help people stop smoking have led to an increased number of GPs recording whether patients smoke and referring them for assistance to quit - according to a new report1.

A survey conducted by Cancer Research UK’s Health Behaviour Unit found that since the NHS smoking cessation services were introduced, nearly two-thirds of GPs (63 per cent) recorded their patients’ smoking status each time they attended surgery and 70 per cent of these regularly referred patients to them.

The survey of more than 330 GPs also showed that more than half the doctors thought the existence of the services made it easier to raise the topic of smoking with patients.

Around 33 per cent of GPs said they had seen a presentation from their local smoking cessation service; almost 50 per cent said they or their surgery staff had received training on how to help people to quit.

Professor Robert West, Cancer Research UK’s Director of Tobacco Studies, welcomed the fact that the smoking cessation service had won approval from GPs and that the survey showed that most doctors thought the services should continue to be funded.

But Prof West thought it was important to publicise their existence to smokers who wanted to quit but did not know their doctor could provide help for them to do so.

“Some smokers might be nervous or worried about getting formal help to quit,” he said. “GPs need to reassure people that smokers' clinics are not embarrassing or mysterious. They are not a form of psychotherapy designed to discover innermost feelings about smoking.

“They are practical places where smokers get nicotine replacement therapy to help wean them off cigarettes and advice on how to reduce craving and maintain momentum in the desire to give up. The methods used have been shown to work and they increases smokers' chances of giving up for good by 300 per cent.”

Jean King, Director of Tobacco Control and Behavioural Research at Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s very encouraging that this survey shows how GPs are welcoming the smoking cessation services.

“Stopping smoking is the best thing smokers can do for their health and that of their family and friends. There is always a benefit to stopping, whatever your age. That’s why we welcome the NHS smokers’ clinics and all effective aids to stopping.”

  1. Public Health119 (4) pp.262-268

Notes to Editor

More than half all cases of cancer can be prevented by simple lifestyle changes according to Cancer Research UK’s Reduce the Risk campaign which was launched in January.

Stopping smoking is top of the campaign’s priority list which also includes staying in shape, eating and drinking healthily, being sunsmart and attending for screening.

All GPs in the UK are provided with information on the NHS stop smoking service and should be able to direct patients to contact their local service for an appointment.

Smokers who try to give up on their own have a four per cent success rate; those who try to quit with the help of nicotine replacement products have an eight per cent chance of giving up for good. But, according to the Government’s White Paper on Health, this almost doubles to 15 per cent when smokers attend group clinics.