Providing smoking cessation services in hospitals could help the NHS save considerable amounts of money, a report has said.
A report by The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) – Hiding in plain sight: Treating tobacco dependency in the NHS – said that offering support to smokers quit while in hospital would ‘improve quality of life as well as increase life expectancy, and help reduce the current £1bn per year cost to the NHS of smoking by patients and staff’.
The report shed light on the increased pressure smoking places on the NHS. The health service estimates there to be 474,000 hospital admissions due to smoking-related illness in England every year, equivalent to 4% of all admissions. Public Health England has estimated that these admissions cost the NHS around £850m a year.
The report stated: ‘Smokers and former smokers also use primary care services and outpatient secondary care services more than never smokers, adding annual costs estimated by Public Health England at £1.1bn and £696m, respectively.’
‘Disjunction into service provision’
Since the introduction of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, councils have been awarded budgets to implement smoking cessation services.
The RCP report said that ‘there is currently no NHS standard tariff for providing stop smoking support to hospital patients’ and the ‘disjunction into service provision’ means delivering stop smoking services to patients is no longer regarded as an NHS responsibility.’
The RCP suggested that, as smoking cessation treatments would save money for the NHS, the health service should make it a priority going forward.
It added that the majority of health professionals currently receive little or no training on treating smokers, and that the NHS does not at the moment gather data on the delivery of smoking cessation treatments.
Recommendations in the report included:
- For health service commissioners to identify smokers and ensure that they ‘receive cost-effective smoking intervention’
- Allowing e-cigarettes to be used on NHS sites, to support people in remaining smoke-free
- Making smoking cessation training part of all undergraduate and postgraduate curricula for healthcare professionals
Commenting on the report, RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group chair and lead author of the report Professor John Britton said:
‘Treating the more than one million smokers who are admitted to hospital every year represents a unique opportunity for the NHS to improve patients’ lives, while also saving money.’
Local authorities still ‘best-placed’ to address health inequalities
Responding to the report the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board chairman Cllr Izzi Seccombe said:
‘It is right that the NHS focuses more on helping smokers to quit but not at the expense of resources transferred to councils from the health service – local authorities remain best-placed to help tackle the health and wellbeing inequalities that exist in their communities.
‘Council-led schemes have had a major impact on helping people quit smoking and it is well-recognised that broader tobacco control measures are far greater drivers of reduced smoking rates than stop smoking services alone.’
Local authorities in England face a bill of £760m each year to help people with smoking related illnesses stay in their own homes, according to a report published last year.
Ms Seccombe added that while councils are committed to helping the NHS encourage smokers to quit, this will be difficult to achieve following ‘a £600 million reduction to the public health budget by central government between 2016/17 and 2020/21, which will only compound acute pressures for NHS services further down the line’.