New analysis by the British Lung Foundation has found that every year fewer patients are being given treatments to help them quit smoking.
The new report, Less Help to Quit shows the most effective treatment for tobacco dependency – medication alongside behavioural support – is increasingly hard for patients to access through primary care.
The BLF said that the decline in the number of items of nicotine replacement therapy and medication being prescribed is deeply concerning as smoking cessation greatly increase the chance of a smoker quitting successfully.
In some areas, GPs are being asked to stop prescribing these treatments altogether, in opposition to national guidelines.
All smokers should be able to expect their GP to give them access to stop smoking medication, either by prescribing themselves or by referral to a specialist service.
Key findings of the report include:
- In England, there has been a 75% decline in stop smoking treatments being prescribed by GPs and pharmacists
- In Wales, the number of treatments dispensed has fallen by two thirds
- In Scotland there was a 40% decline in the number of treatments prescribed in just two years
This decline in prescriptions greatly outpaces the steady decline in the number of people smoking across Britain.
The BLF has made the following recommendations:
- The UK government reverses the cuts to public health funding so that specialist stop smoking services can stay open
- CCGs repeal all guidance to GPs which revokes their right to prescribe stop smoking medication
- Commissioners of stop smoking services remove any unfair restrictions on which, and how many, approved stop smoking products can be prescribed
- The Scottish government maintains the levels of government funding for stop smoking services over the next five years
- Data collection and sharing is improved in Scotland and the annual report on stop smoking data is reinstated
- NHS Wales collects and shares local health board data on stop smoking prescriptions.