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Supporting NHS staff to stop smoking in the North East and North Cumbria

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of illness and premature death. It causes around 74,600 deaths in England in 2019. Approximately 13% of North East and North Cumbria adults currently smoke.

The Smokefree NHS Taskforce hosted a webinar on the 23 April sharing findings from the evaluation of a NHS England-funded pilot that aimed to support NHS staff to stop smoking. Between December 2021 and September 2023, the pilot operated across numerous NENC partners:

  • Ten NHS foundation trusts
  • The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS)
  • 13 local authorities

Stopping smoking at any time has considerable health benefits. However, the earlier someone stops, the greater the benefits can be. The Smokefree NHS Taskforce initiated a dedicated workplace offer to support NHS staff to stop smoking. This included:

  • Free access to nicotine replacement therapy and /or a refillable vaping device;
  • Access to flexible behavioural support through a local stop smoking service;
  • Access to the premium version of the Smokefree App.

The offer was promoted across NHS trusts to raise staff awareness. Over 1,900 staff accessed support to make a quit attempt during  the pilot.

Andrew, a security supervisor from Gateshead Health NHS, shared his experience of receiving support from his employer:  

“I wasn’t sure if the service would work or not, but it did work, and I’m happy that I got the help, within the Trust, right where I work… It’s an upskill, because if you quit and you know the benefits of that, you can easily motivate a colleague as well to follow the same road… the more numbers on board the better.”

The pilot has been evaluated by Newcastle University researchers to understand service users' experiences.. E Findings are now available here: NHS Staff Tobacco Dependency Offer - ARC Research. Key recommendations for local authorities and NHS trusts offering similar services are:

  • Provide on-site support and ensure promotions reach all staff groups;
  • Enable NHS staff to access additional support resources, such as peer support groups or a digital offer, and also ensure flexibility in appointments;
  • Ensure support is high quality, and that advisors have enhanced knowledge of treatment options to support troubleshooting and ease of access for service users;
  • Create opportunities for service users to regularly feedback on their experiences, in order to allow continuous service improvement.

The NENC Smokefree NHS Taskforce will be working with partners to apply evaluation learning and embed smoking cessation workforce support as a routine offer across the North East and North Cumbria.

Support to quit smoking is available to all residents in the North East and North Cumbria, including health and social care staff. To find your local stop smoking service, visit Fresh, or download the premium version of the Smokefree app for free today.

This research was jointly funded by North East and North Cumbria ICB Tobacco Taskforce and Newcastle University, and supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration North East and North Cumbria. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR.

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