New NHS Stop Smoking Service approach boosts referrals by 49 per cent

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new approach designed to improve smoking quit rates is being rolled out across England's GP and other primary care practices after trials showed that it boosted referrals to NHS Stop Smoking Services.

The approach aims to make stop smoking interventions a routine part of GP services and provides a consistent, tailored approach to patient referral.

It was pioneered by local NHS Stop Smoking Services in the Yorkshire and Humber region and trialled in Rotherham between January 2007 and September 2008.

During that time, referrals to local NHS Stop Smoking Services increased by 49 per cent across nine GP practices.

One practice which was involved in the trial was the Dinnington Group, which saw its referral rates rise by 82 per cent.

Clinical nurse manager Irene Botham revealed: "Our nurses received expert training from the local NHS Stop Smoking Service in smoking interventions. We worked hard to drive forward the initiative in my practice and saw great results."

She continued: "There are clear clinical benefits to following this approach and healthcare professionals have a duty of care to help smokers to quit. In addition, our patients can benefit from the assistance of NHS support with which they are up to four times more likely to quit.''

The new approach is set to be rolled out to local primary care services over the next few months by trained advisers.

It ensures that smoking is viewed as a key clinical issue and that all smokers are given basic advice on how to quit.

Practices which adopt the approach can also secure extra "QOF points", meaning that they will get extra funds from the government for helping people give up smoking.

Paul Aveyard, senior lecturer at Birmingham University and senior consultant on the development of the primary care project, explained: "The approach works by offering patients three levels of intervention, from 30-second very brief advice to intensive support.

"What we are trying to do is to make the treatment of tobacco addiction routine, in a similar way to hypertension," he continued.

"Previously, the primary care system encouraged GPs to give their patients advice in terms of stop smoking. The difference here is that GPs will now be required to actively manage their patients - such as referring them to a specialist stop smoking service."

Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, welcomed the approach, noting that even brief advice can double a person's chances of giving up smoking.

"And if smokers go on to receive more intensive support, such as attending a stop smoking clinic, they quadruple their likelihood of success," she revealed.

"Over two thirds of smokers want to quit and we must do all we that can to help them.

"That's why we want to put cigarettes out of sight and out of mind by removing display at point of sale, as seeing the cigarettes in shops can lead to impulse buys by smokers trying to quit."