NHS community pharmacy smoking cessation service

NHS community pharmacies are a great place for patients to receive stop smoking advice and support. Through this service hospitals can refer patients to community pharmacy to continue the stop smoking journey they started in hospital.

The service:

  • supports patients who started a stop smoking programme in hospital to continue their journey in community pharmacy upon discharge
  • promotes healthy behaviours to service users

Smoking cessation and why it’s important

The NHS Long Term Plan focuses on the importance of preventing avoidable illness and more active management of the health of the population. Smoking cessation is specifically identified as a key service that can improve the prevention of avoidable illness. The Long Term Plan suggests that existing smoking cessation services can be expanded to further support patients who are looking to quit smoking, as well as those affected by second-hand smoke.

Smoking is one of the biggest avoidable causes of disease and premature death in the United Kingdom (Allender, 2009), and smoking-related illness puts a considerable strain on NHS resources. In 2015-16 there were 474,000 hospital admissions and 79,000 deaths caused by smoking, which cost the NHS £2.5 billion (NICE guideline NG92).

This service is a branch of the wider aim of supporting hospital patients to continue their stop smoking efforts after discharge, which is expected to increase one-year quit rates by 11% and, when implemented, is expected to save the NHS £85 million in healthcare resource use within one year (Mullen, 2010Royal College of Physicians, 2018).

Bridging the gap between secondary care smoking cessation services and those based in community pharmacy provides further support to the stop smoking campaign across the UK at a time when there is an increased need for patients to quit to protect their health.

According to Action on Smoking Health, smokers who are hospitalised with COVID-19 are more likely to suffer severe outcomes than non-smokers.

From March 2022, the service will be rolled out in community pharmacies across the country, supporting the implementation of the NHS Long Term Plan commitment that by March 2024, everyone admitted to hospital will be offered NHS funded tobacco treatment services.

What the service will provide

Inpatients who start a stop smoking attempt in hospital will be able to be referred to a community pharmacy to continue their stop smoking journey once they are discharged.

People can choose the community pharmacy they wish to be referred to.

A pharmacist will meet with the person stopping smoking or carry out consultations over the phone to discuss their quit progress for up to 12 weeks. They will review the nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) prescribed by the hospital team and make any necessary adjustments to support the continued quit attempt and provide ongoing supplies free of charge as required.

How patients access the service

To access the service, patients must:

  • have been referred by a participating hospital
  • have started a stop smoking programme in hospital and not completed this before being discharged

The service specification can be found here: Advanced service specification: NHS community pharmacy smoking cessation service

Watch this video to find out more about the service.

Read about the first pilot area in Oldham went live in November 2020.

In his blog Professor Sanjay Agrawal explains how the service will enable people leaving hospital to access support for their tobacco dependence through a local community pharmacy at a time convenient to them.