NHS bosses’ decision to decommission the prescription of stop smoking aids ‘discriminate’ against smokers, a charity has said.
In a new report Less Help to Quit, the British Lung Foundation (BLF) found that there was a 75% drop in the number of stop smoking aids prescribed by GPs and pharmacists in England between 2005/06 and 2016/17.
There are large regional variations, which the charity argued are due to CCGs ‘prioritising saving money over saving lives’.
BLF director of policy Alison Cook said ‘decommissioning the prescribing of stop smoking aids will only achieve short-term savings’.
She continued: ‘Worryingly, it will shore up a greater burden on the NHS in the long run in terms of hospital admissions and the impact on already stretched A&E services. The decisions are foolhardy and must be reversed.’
According to guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, all smokers should have access to specialist services where they can get support based on their needs and preferences.
Figures breakdown per country, according to the BLF
- England: 75% decline in the number of stop smoking aids dispensed in 2016/17 compared to 2005/6
- Scotland: 40% drop in stop smoking aids prescribed between 2012/13 and 2014/15
- Wales: the number of all stop smoking products dispensed in 2016/17 fell to a third of what was dispensed in 2007/08.
Ms Cook argued that cost pressures in local authorities, due to cuts from the Government, are the ‘main reason these vital services are vanishing’.
According to the National Audit Office, government funding for local authorities has dropped by 49% since 2010/11.
Earlier this month, Local Government Association‘s community wellbeing board chairman Councillor Izzi Seccombe said: ‘Councils remain committed to helping smokers quit, however this is made all the more difficult by the Government’s reductions to the public health budget, which councils use to fund stop smoking services.’
In January, the Government announced that public health funding will be cut by £170m between 2018/19 and 2020/21. Meanwhile, councils will receive £16bn between 2016 and 2021 – ‘to provide vital services for their local population including smoking cessation services’ – as part of its tobacco control strategy.