PCTs up smoking cessation budgets

GP Investigation - The number of people stopping smoking has fallen by almost a third

PCTs are ramping up smoking cessation efforts and expanding provision in primary care as quit rates fall, a GP investigation reveals.

Figures released last month showed a 32 per cent drop in the number of people giving up smoking in 2008, compared with the previous year.

The fall comes despite a 35 per cent increase in spending on smoking cessation.

However, PCTs are set to increase funding of smoking cessation services further, responses from 90 PCTs to a Freedom of Information request by GP reveal (see box).

Some of the increases may be moves to make up previous shortfalls in funding, since PCTs with the lowest spending are planning the largest increases.

Those in the bottom quarter in terms of funding plan to increase smoking cessation funding by 36 per cent, on average. Those in the top quarter are planning increases of just 14 per cent.

However, PCTs that are planning the largest funding increases are also running more cost-efficient services.

The quarter of PCTs planning the largest increases in funding spent £134 on each person who successfully gave up smoking for a month.

In contrast, the PCTs planning the smallest increases spent £193 on each one-month quitter.

West Midlands GP Dr Charles Broomhead, a member of the Smoking Cessation in Primary Care group, said that investment in smoking cessation was welcome wherever the money was spent.

Stopping people smoking is one of the most important and cost-effective health interventions that can be undertaken, he pointed out.

Increased efforts to improve quit rates among pregnant women and manual workers would be particularly appropriate in certain areas, he added.

But Dr Broomhead said he was also keen to see increased effort put into reducing the uptake of smoking.

'I would really welcome extra funding aimed at preventing people from smoking in the first place,' he said.

'That really is fundamental. If people don't start smoking, we wouldn't have to deal with problems it leads to.'

tom.moberly@haymarket.com

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