Smokers with severe mental illness (SMI) are twice as likely to quit smoking when they receive behavioural support alongside standard care, a study has found.
As part of a trial led by the University of York’s Mental Health and Addiction Research Group, mental health nurses were trained to offer behavioural support to smokers with SMI.
The researchers found that following this intervention smokers with SMI were twice more likely to have stopped smoking in the six months following the trial than those who were referred to local stop smoking cessation services.
NHS England said the research from the University of York will help them deliver the best support to this category of smokers as part of the long-term plan.
Commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research, the trial recruited participants from both secondary and primary care providers, working with CCGs to identify them.
Researchers recruited 526 heavy smokers with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia from 16 primary care and 21 community-based mental health sites in the UK and randomly assigned them to tailored smoking cessation intervention or standard care.
As part of the trial, mental health nurses were trained to give behavioural support to smokers in their own home, which included helping them come up with a plan to cut down the number of cigarettes before quitting.
The participants who were assigned to the university’s intervention programme were still given pharmacological aids for smoking cessation, such as nicotine replacement therapy.
Quit data results were provided by 443 of 526 participants six months following the trial.
The study found that 14%, 32 of 226 participants who received the bespoke behavioural support had quit smoking within six months, compared to 6%, 14 of 217 patients who received standard care.
Intervention should become routine practice
Following the results of this study, the Mental Health and Smoking Partnership – a coalition of organisation working to improve the condition of smokers with mental health illnesses – said it hopes ‘the learning from this study is incorporated into routine practice nationally’.
NHS England national clinical director for mental health Professor Tim Kendall said: ‘This exciting new research will help inform our work to implement the NHS long-term plan and deliver the best possible support for smokers with mental health conditions to quit.’
Professor Simon Gilbody, lead researcher from the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences and Hull York Medical School, said that people with SMI usually die 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population and this is largely due to smoking.
He added: ‘Our results show that smokers with severe mental illness can successfully quit when given the right support. We hope our findings will mean that this specialist support is available to everyone who might benefit.’