Why every healthcare professional or commissioner has a role to play on No Smoking Day and beyond.

Mark Juniper is a consultant in respiratory medicine at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon. He also works as a clinical lead at the West of England AHSN. Over the last year, Mark has been working on our adoption and spread safety improvement programme. This is part of a national programme using a collaborative approach between acute hospitals helping to deliver improved care for patients with respiratory problems such as severe asthma and COPD.

In this blog, Mark reflects on how vital it remains, as the adoption and spread programme draws to a close and we mark No Smoking Day on 9 March, that colleagues across healthcare systems encourage patients to stop smoking…

As a doctor who sees people with lung disease, I have spent a lot of time encouraging people to stop smoking. Smoking tobacco is the single most important cause of preventable death and illness and services that support smokers to quit are very cost effective. Every healthcare contact represents an opportunity to help smokers to quit. This starts with very brief advice and continues with the provision of treatments that help patients to stop. Ideally all of these people should be referred to specialist smoking cessation services. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen and in some areas, there is limited service provision.

No Smoking Day gives us a great opportunity to highlight the impact of smoking on health and help our patients to improve their health by quitting. Every hospital admission represents a chance both to identify current smokers and to provide them with advice and support to stop. Hospital admission is a particularly good area to focus on as people are not able to smoke while on the hospital ward. A short period of enforced abstinence gives us a chance to offer treatment that will help patients to quit.

I have been involved in quality improvement work in the NHS for much of the last ten years. For me, variation in how things are done has become a ‘red flag’ that identifies an opportunity for improvement. Sadly, smoking cessation is one of these areas. We don’t always ask people if they smoke and even when we do, we aren’t consistent in offering advice and treatment. Sometimes it can feel as if we are too busy even to take the time to offer brief advice. What this actually does is add to our future workload!

Over the last two years, hospitals across the West of England have been working together to deliver a group of interventions that reduce readmission rates for patients admitted with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is one of the diseases caused by smoking and also one of the most common reasons for hospital admission. During this time, we have increased the referral rate to smoking cessation services in our hospitals from 41 to 58%. There is clearly lots more to do but every patient who quits will experience less ill health – and that will help to make us all less busy in the future. Surely a win-win like that is a good reason to act!

No Smoking Day is a call to all of us to take action – and that should include personal reflection if we ourselves are smokers. Everyone can play a part in helping smokers to quit. That includes healthcare professionals working in primary and community care, acute hospitals, mental health and maternity services. It also includes those with responsibility for designing and commissioning local services. Don’t forget the influence we can have on friends and family too. To make the most of all opportunities that will help improve health – remember that every contact counts. All of us can make a difference!

Posted on February 24, 2022 by Mark Juniper, Consultant in respiratory medicine, Great Western Hospital and Clinical Lead at the West of England AHSN

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