Rotherham smokers "badly let down" by NHS services

Smokers in Rotherham might be struggling to quit
Smokers in Rotherham might be struggling to quit
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Smokers in Rotherham are being “badly let down” as they are struggling to access vital stop smoking treatments from GPs or pharmacists, a charity has claimed.

Analysis of figures released by NHS Digital by the British Lung Foundation (BLF) suggests there has been a huge slump in prescriptions for stop smoking products, with the most effective stop smoking treatment varenicline, often sold under the brand name Champix, only given out 90 times in Rotherham across 2018/19.

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This is less than one prescription per 1,000 people.

The slump in prescriptions for Rotherham is seen across all stop smoking treatments including nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches and lozenges, and medication including Champix and Zyban, which help people to overcome the urge to smoke.

Nationally, stop smoking prescriptions dropped from 975,000 to 740,000 in just two years.

BLF said: “This would be good news if it was due to a decline in the number of smokers, but sadly it isn’t. The drop in prescriptions greatly outpaces the drop in the number of smokers, which is leaving those people wanting to give up high and dry.”

Rotherham has a smoking rate of 18.9 per cent, which is above the overall UK rate of 14.7 per cent.

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The BLF said in response to public health cuts from central government, many local authorities are spending less on stop smoking services.

This was creating a false economy, the charity said, as evidence shows stop smoking treatments are cost effective and save the NHS money in the long term.

Research shows the majority of smokers want to quit, however smoking is a particularly hard addiction to tackle as many smokers have had the habit for decades, often since they were children.

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Rachael Hodges, senior policy officer at the British Lung Foundation, said: “It’s shocking but sadly not surprising that the number of stop smoking treatments being prescribed has continued to fall so drastically. Cuts to public health funding means local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups are struggling to offer comprehensive stop smoking support.

“Although the number of people smoking is continuing to decline, we must not be complacent. For a person living with a lung condition, quitting smoking is one of the best things they can do for their health, and they should be given the best chance possible to quit.

“One of the aims in the government’s prevention green paper is to end smoking by 2030. To make this a reality the government must make public health funding a priority and local health services must ensure everyone has access to the best support to quit.”

Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group has been approached for a comment.