A Look into NHS Stop Smoking Services in England
The amount of people smoking in England is slowly dwindling down year on year with the number at an all time low from what recent reports have shown. People in England are choosing to kick the cigs to the curb and giving themselves a better lifestyle by stopping smoking.
Stop smoking services in England are funded and provided by the NHS as an outreach for people wanting to quit and not knowing where to start. But there’s a flaw in the system; there just isn’t enough out there to help the amount of people still smoking.
In this article, I’m going to look into the Stop Smoking services available across the country, what they can offer, just how stretched the services are and what more must be done by the government to help better these services and get the number of people smoking to an even lower number.
Smokers in England
We all know smoking kills, but do you know to what volume? Smoking is responsible for roughly 78,000 deaths in the UK every year. This sadly is a number that has seen a rise year on year, with the number of smokers in England still being high.
Below is some information on the costs of smoking to the NHS every single year;
The government launched a campaign entitled “SmokeFree England 2030” back in 2020, with the proposal of England becoming completely smoke free by the year 2030. As current stats and trends show, this objective is not going to be met if some serious intervention from the government isn’t done.
Dr Javed Khan OBE, who is the Chief Executive of Barnado’s charity, wrote a review on this report and highlighted critical points on what the Government needs to do if they want this objective met. I’ve written an article on it, which is available to read HERE
Pulling out key points of this review, Dr Khan says that if nothing is done and we continue to move forward as we are, the earliest this target will be met is 2037, with it potentially being 2045 before this is met in more deprived areas. And this is down to the fact that there are not enough Stop Smoking services available for people to reach out to, or if they are available, there’s one or maybe two at a push in a densely populated area. Let’s look into these services in a bit more detail…
Stop Smoking Services in England
Stop Smoking services are funded by the NHS and provide help to people looking to quit smoking. As they put it themselves, they are;
“Free, friendly and can massively boost your chances of quitting for good”
These services are operated by expert advisers dedicated to giving accurate advice, information and professional support to people in the first few months of quitting smoking.
They are also the pathway to being able to get access to Nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, gum, lozenges and more as well as Zyban, a tablet available only on prescription via a stop smoking service that will help you in quitting. And more recently, these services are now offering vapes as a way to quit smoking.
Various Nicotine Replacement Therapy options offered by NHS Stop Smoking Services
They offer one to one or group sessions where they will talk to people and offer advice and information to people who are in the process of quitting and provide crucial support to people who are making such a huge change in their life.
Jennifer Percival, who trains stop smoking advisers says;
“Overall, you’re 3 times more likely to quit smoking for good with the combination of stop smoking treatment, and the help and support of an NHS Stop Smoking Service”
If you’re someone looking to quit smoking, but don’t have faith you can do it, these services are fantastic and sound really promising don’t they? Well, yes they do. But what if there isn’t any in your local area?
What if you are 1 of 157,000 other smokers in your county and there is only ONE stop smoking service available for the entire county?
It might sound a bit farfetched, but sadly this is the harsh reality for a lot of people.
Stop Smoking services in England
There isn’t an exact number for the amount of people who currently smoke in England, but the estimate sits at around 6,000,000 (6 Million) that’s just shy of 10% of the population of England.
And reports and surveys show that at least 60% of these people want to quit smoking. A fantastic statistic that would help the fight for England to become SmokeFree by 2030, and for this to become a reality the stop smoking services have their work cut out for them.
But there aren’t enough services available across the country to be able to meet the demands, which is where the goal of SmokeFree 2030 is going to fall quite short of the mark.
At the time of writing this, there is currently 129 dedicated stop smoking services in England. 129 services to treat the 3.6 million people wanting to quit smoking. That’s 1 service to 27,906 people…just doesn’t add up does it?
The numbers don’t lie
If the government wants to achieve their goal of SmokeFree 2030, then some serious intervention by them is needed as per Dr Khan’s report suggests.
More stop smoking services need to be added alongside the pre-existing services in densely populated areas, and they need to be fully introduced in areas where there are no services available at all.
Studies and reports have shown that 12 areas in England don’t have any locally commissioned stop smoking services which is just shocking to read. The 12 areas that don’t have any services available contain 497,000+ smokers collectively. That’s nearly half a million people with no dedicated stop smoking services to turn to if they wanted to quit smoking.
Below I’ve comprised a table of the most densely populated areas with no stop smoking services available, and compared it to areas that are lower in population that has a lot more available to people wanting to quit;
The North South divide
Looking at the above statistics, if your geography of England is up to scratch, you’ll notice that the area’s with more stop smoking services are predominately situated in the centre or south of the country, and the places with fewer/no stop smoking services are situated in the north of the country.
Looking at places like Leeds & Liverpool have two stop smoking services between them, which caters for 217,000+ smokers. Transport your way towards London and look at the Central London & Westminster area, it has the same number of stop smoking services (2) for just under 31,000 smokers. That’s the same number of services for 7x less the amount of that in Liverpool and Leeds!
Stats show that the further north you go, the worse the numbers read. Birmingham and Solihull being the worst and probably the saddest to read, with 171,000+ smokers and there only being ONE stop smoking service available. But why is there such a difference? Let’s look at it…
For Richer and For Poorer?
Dr Khan highlighted in his review that there is a stark difference in availability of resources in more deprived areas of the country, and they would take longer to achieve the target of SF2030 if something wasn’t done. But why is there such a difference in resources in these areas?
The more deprived areas of the country have always historically been based in the North of England. Large cities like Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and so on have boroughs and districts in them that have been named in the Top 10 poorest/deprived areas of the country.
The “deprived” title is given based on population, assets, poverty, unemployment, crime, education and housing situation. And with these cities/boroughs having been labelled as deprived, it shows that nothing/very minimal is being done to improve them, and sadly stop smoking services are probably more towards the bottom of these lists.
Cross over to the “richer” areas of the country and look at the amount of stop smoking services, the volume of services compared to the people smoking is so much richer in volume than that of the deprived areas.
It looks as though priority has been given to the more “richer” areas of the country, and as always these deprived areas have been left behind. It’s also considered that these cities aren’t being given enough information or support they that so desperately need when it comes to stop smoking. It’s also believed that these people in the deprived areas have no desire to want to quit smoking, due to it being an outlet to whatever stresses they may be feeling. If these people in these areas suddenly had access to stop smoking services, and stopped buying cigarettes or tobacco, the government would surely see a drop in revenue they obtain from the tax they put on cigarettes, so is this an underhanded tactic by the people in charge? Makes you wonder…
It pains me to think that this could be the reality of why they are missing out, but it’s looking like it is the harsh truth behind it all and it just isn’t fair. As Dr Khan says, and I also believe that, if the government wants this SmokeFree 2030 to be an achievable goal, then they need to step in and act fast in an effort to make things better.
I hope I’ve shown well enough my feelings on how passionate I am on getting people to stop smoking by having the services and resources they need to kick the habit and make their lives better.
More needs to be done by the government to help these deprived areas and even more so to the lesser deprived areas that don’t have access to stop smoking services, by increasing resources and outlets available if they want to achieve their (currently unlikely) target of SmokeFree 2030.
If you’re wanting to find out more information about your local Stop Smoking Service. visit NHS stop smoking services help you quit – NHS (www.nhs.uk) to find out more information