High street pharmacies help people stub out smoking

Every pharmacy in England will be able to offer stop smoking support to patients when they are discharged from hospital from this week, the NHS announced today.

From tomorrow, and to mark National No Smoking Day, NHS help to kick the habit will be available in every local pharmacy which signs up to offer the service.

The new high street offer means that smokers who are admitted to hospital and encouraged to quit can get help from their nearest chemist as well as being able to choose the site that is most convenient for them.

The radical action is part of the NHS Long Term Plan to offer tobacco treatment services to all hospital inpatients by 2023/24.

Pilots of the service in Oldham, Greater Manchester have successfully supported smokers to stub out the habit after they left hospital – three in five people successfully quit, including 60 year old Bilal Sarwar who quit after almost 50 years of smoking.

The latest NHS figures show that more than half a million hospital admissions a year are attributable to smoking.

There will be at least three opportunities for people to arrange a convenient face-to-face or remote appointment with the pharmacist for up to 12 weeks and ongoing supplies of the medicine they need to help them quit will be supplied free of charge.

GP and Director of health inequalities, Dr Bola Owolabi for the NHS in England, said: “While rates are falling, giving up smoking remains one of the most important steps to leading a longer and healthier life, and the NHS is working hard to make it as easy as possible for people who decide to quit smoking while in hospital, to receive support once they return home.

“Leaving hospital is a good incentive for people to quit smoking – and NHS pharmacies will be on their local high street with advice, support and treatment to help them stub out the dangerous habit once and for all”.

60-year-old Mr Sarwar finally quit smoking after almost 50 years with the help and support of the pharmacy team. A smoker since he was 11, Mr Sarwar didn’t believe cigarettes were causing him harm so carried on smoking even after suffering a heart attack.

However, after discovering he needed an operation and following advice from his hospital cardiology team, Mr Sarwar was persuaded to give up and given a prescription of nicotine patches and spray to relieve his nicotine cravings. Mr Sarwar was referred to Lees Road Pharmacy in March 2021 and 12 weeks later he had successfully quit.

He said: “All the people who supported me were wonderful and very helpful every step of the way. Nadia from the pharmacy built both my confidence and my purpose. She made me believe I could stop smoking and made me see that if I did quit, it would prolong my life and give me more time with my grandchildren.

“Giving up has helped me in lots of ways – my health is improved; my breathing is better, and people tell me I look healthier now. I am very proud of myself for stopping smoking and have lots of gratitude for the people who have supported me. If I can stop smoking, anyone can if they have the right people and the right support”.

Patients can be referred for the new support by the NHS trust they are being treated by when they are discharged. They will also have the option of selecting which pharmacy they can use and will be contacted once they are home from hospital.

Smoking rates have fallen significantly in recent years but smoking still accounts for more years of life lost than any other risk factor which can be changed.

Smoking is also a major cause of CVD which is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 17.9 million deaths each year, 31% of all global deaths.

Lung cancer, often caused by smoking, is also one of the most common and serious types of cancer – with around 47,000 people diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK.