A free smoking cessation service commissioned by local authorities in Cheshire West and Cheshire will be cut as part of public service rationing.
The free service will now only be offered to residents in the area who are at high risk, including pregnant women, teenagers aged 13-18 and those with mental health problems.
The local authority admitted it had cut its spend on wellbeing services by almost 50% this year, as part of managing ongoing national cuts.
Cabinet member for communities and wellbeing, councillor Louise Gittins, said: ‘Like all local authorities we face ongoing financial challenges and need to reduce costs while maintaining services of a high standard.’
But GP smoking cessation expert Dr Alex Bobak, a GPSI in Wandsworth, said the move was ‘ludicrous’.
He told our sister publication Pulse: ‘Smoking cessation interventions are amongst the most cost effective health interventions going.It doesn’t make sense form a medical point of view. It doesn’t make sense from an economic point of view.
‘The groups that they’ve actually left are probably the most difficult to treat and I tear my hair out at this irrational decision making, which is entirely to do with short term financial savings but long term massive health consequences.’
According to Dr Bobak, any savings for local authorities ‘will cost the NHS’.
He added: ‘I think this is another example of how smoking should firmly be under the remit of the NHS rather than local authority.’
It follows news that 85% of councils have reduced their public health budgets this year, according to research by the Labour Party in September.
NHS Digital data shows that smokers accessing NHS stop smoking services are falling nationally, with the number of people who set a quit date falling 11% to 274,000 during 2017/18.
The number of successful quitters fell for the fifth consecutive year, to 138,426, which was also an 11% decrease.
This story was first published on our sister publication Pulse.