NHS smoking services in danger – careless government may destroy successful public health initiative



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Thursday 15 November 2001

 

NHS smoking services in danger – careless government may destroy successful public health initiative

An  editorial in the BMJ[1] reveals that the government is in imminent danger of destroying one of the shining successes of its own public health policies – the smoking cessation services that have been established with funds granted under the 1998 tobacco White Paper.  The authors argue that failure to clarify the funding for these services is leading to precipitous staff attrition and uncertainty about whether the new primary care trusts will allow the service to continue.

Commenting on the editorial, Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

“It should be a no-brainer, but Ministers are in danger of letting the whole thing crumble and collapse by ignoring the funding crisis.

“Helping people to quit smoking is just about the most effective use possible of NHS funds – effectively treating the fifty diseases caused by smoking before they actually happen and tackling health. It would be a tragedy if these services were allowed to die by indifference or inflexibility.”

“Compared to cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins,the services are saving about 12 times as many years of life for each pound spent, yet the NHS spend about 13 times more money on statins.” said Bates “the economic absurdity sticks out like a sore thumb.”

[1] Raw M.McNeill A. Watt J. Raw D. National smoking cessation services at risk: They are effective and cost effective and must be made permanent BMJ  2001;323:1140-1141( 17 November ) http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/323/7322/1140