NICE recommends that GPs discuss smoking cessation for five to 10 minutes. But experts said this takes 'too long' to be used as an opportunistic intervention. GPs should instead offer a government-backed, 30-second 'very brief' intervention to all smokers, they said.
It comes as a survey seen by GP shows that many GPs believe limited consultation time is a major obstacle to helping patients quit.
The 30-second brief intervention, known as the Ask, Advise, Act (AAA) approach, was launched by the DoH in June 2009. It involves recording smoking status, advising about quitting and giving information, and a referral or prescription.
In the survey of 505 GPs, 59% said they wanted to do more to help patients quit.
More than a third (36%) of these said that the time constraint in consultations was one of the biggest barriers to achieving this.
Smoking cessation expert Dr Paul Aveyard of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies at Birmingham University said the NICE-backed intervention was 'too long' for most GPs.
'The 30-second approach is welcome because it is more practical,' he said. He added the AAA approach also emphasises that all smokers should be offered help. 'This is the best single thing a GP can do and the offer need only take a few seconds.'
A NICE spokeswoman said the institute was currently reviewing its public health smoking cessation guidance.
The survey, commissioned by Pfizer, found that 86% of GPs agreed it was their responsibility to help patients stop smoking, and 81% regularly offered a brief intervention. However, just 25% were aware of the AAA approach.
NICE is currently consulting on new indicators for smoking cessation in the QOF 2012/13. This proposes an indicator to measure the percentage of smokers aged over 14 who are offered support and treatment.