All smokers admitted to hospital in England will be offered help to quit

All smokers who are admitted to hospital will be encouraged to quit as part of a new five-year plan, NHS England said.

The NHS will invest £183 million in helping problem drinkers and smokers, which cost the service more than £6 billion annually.

It is planning to offer advice on quitting to every smoker admitted to hospital, including those receiving long-term mental health support and learning disability services.

Overall more than half a million smokers – 600,000 – will be supported to quit over the next five years, prioritising the areas with greatest need.

Medical professionals will target mothers-to-be and their partners, with 10% of smokers still lighting up when their pregnancy reaches full term.

The services are based on a scheme already happening in Manchester, which is expected to save £10 million and over 30,000 hospital beds across the city.

Problem drinkers will also be helped in a bid to save millions of pounds as related admissions continue to rise.

The number of patients admitted to hospital for alcohol-related reasons has increased by almost one fifth (17%) over the last decade, NHS England said.

It estimated alcohol-related harm costs the NHS in England £3.5 billion every year.

Teams will be rolled out to up to 50 hospitals with the highest number of alcohol-related admissions to provide checks, medical help to stop drinking and support to stay sober.

Alcohol Care Teams in Bolton, Salford, Nottingham, Liverpool, London and Portsmouth have already seen a reduction in A&E attendances, bed days, readmissions and ambulance call-outs.

It is hoped the scheme will prevent 50,000 admissions annually and almost 250,000 bed days over five years.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “Drinking to excess can destroy families, with the NHS too often left to pick up the pieces.

“Alcohol and tobacco addiction remain two of the biggest causes of ill health and early death, and the right support can save lives.

“The NHS long-term plan delivers a sea-change in care for a range of major conditions like cancer, mental ill health and heart disease, as well as stepping up to do more on preventing ill health in the first place by giving patients the support they need to take greater control of their own health and stay fitter longer.”

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, welcomed the commitment.

He said: “Every contact a health professional has with a patient is an opportunity to help the patient give up smoking – having a system in place to treat tobacco dependency with allocated funding will help make it happen.”

He was echoed by Paul Burstow, chairman of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and co-chairman of the Mental Health & Smoking Partnership, who said: “People with mental health conditions have smoking rates over twice as high as the general population.

“Smoking is a leading cause of health inequalities and premature death.

“The commitment to funding dedicated support to quit not just for inpatients but also for smokers receiving long-term support from mental health and learning disability services is welcome.”

But Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary, called on the Government to reverse its public health cuts that had “pushed many local services to the brink”.

He said: “Tackling addiction in society is a personal priority of mine so it’s welcome that NHS bosses are now adopting Labour’s policy to place specialist alcohol staff in hospitals.

“But these new proposals will be severely hindered by deep cuts of £34 million to alcohol and drug addiction services and £3.1 million cuts to community smoking cessation services ministers are imposing this financial year.”

The Royal College of Midwives also expressed its concerns about cuts to health budgets, calling for major investment in “smoking cessation specialist midwives”.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved.