NHS to take smoking treatment into the mainstream

Thursday 27 July 2000

The Government today raised the profile of smoking in the mainstream NHS.

· Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products are to be made available on NHS prescription.
· NICE is to provide guidance to doctors on the best prescribing regime for NRT and Zyban (the drug announced in June).
· The Committee on Safety of Medicines will consider the scope for making NRT available as widely as cigarettes – in any shop.
· The smoking cessation clinics already established following the 1998 tobacco White Paper will become a service targeted at the most sensitive groups- the heavily addicted and pregnant smokers.

ASH applauded the approach to smoking of the NHS National Plan.

Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

“Though smoking is just part of the bigger picture, the approach they’ve taken demonstrates a philosophical commitment to radical modernisation – they are at last taking seriously the idea that prevention is better than cure.”

“When the NHS treats tobacco dependence, it is treating 50 different illnesses caused by smoking before they actually happen. That saves huge amounts of money and human misery in the long run, andis just about the best investment of resources the NHS can make.”

But ASH warned that NHS staff need to get behind the impetus established by the Government. Some doctors remain reluctant to treat smoking as a serious dependency syndrome:

“We hope that doctors respond to the strong signal from the Government and start to put smoking at the forefront of their approach to providing better health for the communities they serve. It is clear that smoking has now reached the mainstream but it needs more than Government announcements.”

Click here (pdf) to see ASH’s extensive evidence to the Government as a contribution to the Modernisation Review