No Smoking Day 2019: How to Help Patients Quit

March 13th marks No Smoking Day, an annual awareness day created to help people understand the risks of smoking and what they can do to quit. Many smokers will rely on their GPs to quit smoking for good, with a lot of resources and support available to ensure a permanent lifestyle change. With the consequences of smoking proving to be a huge drain on NHS resources, it’s in GPs’ best interests to help patients quit.

The dangers of smoking

The dangers of smoking are well documented, but smoking still remains Britain’s largest killer. 78,000 people will die every year from smoking, causing up to 7 out of every 10 cases of lung cancer, as well as other cancers. Smoking can contribute to heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, and cause problems within the blood vessels. It can also worsen existing conditions like asthma and weaken the immune system.

Smoking and the NHS

As well as the individual effects of smoking, it also has an impact on our health services. Research published in 2017 showed that smoking cost the NHS £2.6bn in 2017 in England alone. This highlights the burden that smokers put on NHS services, something that could be remedied by helping patients quit.

Smokers are more likely to need primary care services than those who have never smoked, which puts GP visits as a result of smoking at a cost of £794 million. The addition of nurse visits and prescriptions brings the total cost to £1.1 billion. With this in mind, it is in doctors’ interests to help patients quit smoking and free up vital appointment time. With more help for GPs on the horizon, there could be more resources available to help smokers give up, freeing up services for patients with other conditions.

How to help patients quit

An August 2018 report by the British Lung Foundation found that the number of support kits being issued to help patients quit smoking has fallen by 75%. By helping patients to quit smoking, doctors can help them see the immediate health benefits, which includes lowering their risk of developing serious diseases in the future.

By highlighting services to patients to help them quit, such as special clinics, providing leaflets and posters, GP surgeries can help raise awareness of the dangers of smoking. Doctors and practice nurses have a great opportunity to connect with patients and provide them with the advice they need to make better health choices, as well as give them the resources they need to quit for good.

By identifying patients that smoke, GPs can better educate smokers on the dangers they face and give them the motivation they need to give up altogether. Patients who visit surgeries presenting symptoms caused or exacerbated by smoking can be provided with useful learning opportunities that could help spur them to quit for good.

The NHS Health Checks also provide an opportunity for those aged between 40 and 79 to attend a health screening to identify the risk of preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes. By recommending these checks to patients, those who are smokers could receive the advice and support they need before serious health problems develop.

Doctors can provide a lot of support to patients who need help to quit smoking, but having the right numbers of staff in place, particularly in out-of-hours clinics, is vital for ensuring that patients can access the right services. If you’re interested in taking on a rewarding and challenging new role, take a look at our jobs page for the latest vacancies.