Smoking costs local authorities £760 million a year for social care

30 January 2017

Smoking is adding to the social care crisis because at least £1.4 billion a year is spent on social care, needed because of smoking related illness. And the problem is set to get worse because the local authority public health grant which pays for stop smoking services is being cut by central government [1], and a growing number of NHS commissioners are now refusing to pay for GP prescriptions for stop smoking medicines (a list of NHS clinical commissioning groups known to have done this is given in note [2]).

Research published today by Action on Smoking and Health shows that local authorities in England face a bill of £760m a year, up from £600m in 2012, to help people with smoking-related illness stay in their own homes (domiciliary care). Individuals also face a bill of about £630 million to cover the cost of their own care. [3]

The new figures are included in an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health Report published today following an Inquiry convened by Bob Blackman MP, Chair of the APPG and former leader of Harrow Council. The Inquiry report highlights the need for national leadership to ensure smoking rates continue to fall and urges the Government to publish the new tobacco control plan for England – now over a year overdue – without further delay. [4]

Bob Blackman MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health said:

“Evidence presented to the APPG on Smoking and Health shows that smoking is contributing to the current social care crisis. The situation will worsen if funding to local stop smoking services continues to be cut. Smoking is the leading cause of health inequalities in the UK so this puts at serious risk progress towards the Prime Minister’s ambition to reduce the burning injustice caused by inequality.

The new Tobacco Control Plan for England, published without further delay, will be crucial to ensuring that Government, the NHS and local Councils work together effectively to continue to tackle the harm caused by smoking.”

The Inquiry heard evidence that funding cuts to local authority stop smoking services and tobacco control work are being made worse by a lack of commitment from some parts of the NHS to helping smokers quit, with serious impacts on the health and social care system. [5] The LGA has predicted that local authorities face a funding gap for social care provision of £2.6 billion by the end of the decade. [6]

Margaret Willcox, President Elect of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Care (ADASS) said:

“Rising demand and the increased cost of care has left providers struggling to meet the needs of those who depend on social care. Though the Government has taken short term steps to try and relieve the serious strain being placed on individuals, councils and the NHS, without urgent action, the situation will only worsen. 

Preventing people from needing care in the first place is vital and reducing smoking can make an important contribution both to reducing the costs of care to councils and improving the quality of life for many who may otherwise need years of care.”

Peter Hunt, 67 from London, has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and a heart condition caused by smoking:

“I’ve received support from the council for four years and the care is vital – I really couldn’t do it without them. My carer comes in every morning to help me with washing, shaving and changing and my wife helps out too – she has to, I can hardly do anything for myself. I can make a cup of tea myself but I can’t carry it anywhere. I also have a walk-in shower and a ramp to help me get into the house. I pay for as much of my care as I can and the local authority provides what’s left.”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, commented:

“Smoking places an enormous pressure on our over stretched health and social care system, not to mention the many thousands of carers who spend their lives looking after loved ones.

We know that most local authorities remain committed to reducing smoking but key services are under threat from public health funding cuts. In some areas this is being made worse by a lack of engagement from NHS partners.  Local and national action is urgently needed to ensure the continuity of support to help smokers quit.”



Notes to Editors

[1] Cutting Down: The Reality of Budget Cuts to Local Tobacco Control ASH/CRUK, Nov. 2016

[2] ASH is surveying all the CCGs in England through Freedom of Information requests. The following CCGs have cut their funding for GP prescriptions to patients seeking to stop smoking:

·         Wyre Forest CCG, South Worcestershire CCG, Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG

·         East Kent Prescribing Group

·         Windsor, Ascot & Maidenhead CCG

·         NHS Vale of York CCG

[3] The costs of smoking to the social care system in England has cost estimates for every top tier English local authority. The study was conducted by economist Howard Reed from Landman Economics for ASH. The report excludes costs borne by the national government such as the payment of welfare benefits.

[4] Burning Injustice – reducing tobacco driven harm and inequality: Recommendations to the government, local authorities and the NHS APPG on Smoking & Health, Jan. 2017

[5] Smoking cessation: policy and practice in NHS hospitals British Thoracic Society, Dec. 2016

[6] LGA responds to the Local Government Finance Settlement. LGA media release.15 December 2016