August 21, 2009 - The National Health Service (NHS), the world's largest publicly funded health service, is spending more money helping people stop smoking - but fewer are quitting, say official figures. The cost per quitter was £219 in 2008/09 compared with £173 in 2007/08 and £160 (263.68 U.S. dollars) in 2006/07. (NHS is the name commonly used to refer to the four publicly funded healthcare systems of the United Kingdom.)
Up in smoke: 337,054 people quit last year, down four percent on the previous year's total of 350,800. But spending went up 21 percent last year to £74m - not including the cost of nicotine replacement therapy. The figures also found less than half of pregnant women using NHS stop smoking services manage to quit smoking. Of the 18,928 pregnant women who set a quit date, 8,641 successfully quit (46 per cent), says the NHS Information Center. This was a 12 percent fall on the 9,817 successful quitters among pregnant women setting a quit date in 2007/08.
A total of 671,259 people set a quit date through the service in 2008/09, a 1 percent fall on the 680,289 in 2007/08.
The smoking ban in public places came into force in England on July 1, 2007. The NHS Information Centre's chief executive, Tim Straughan, said: 'The report shows that fewer people successfully quit last year compared to 2007/08. 'However, 2007/08 saw the introduction of the ban on smoking in public places which would be expected to affect the number of quitters in that year. 'It is encouraging that more people quit smoking last year than in 2006/07, the year prior to the ban.'
But Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb said 'The Government is wasting NHS resources which are vitally needed to save lives. 'It’s extraordinary that more money is being spent for worse outcomes. 'The incentive system for doctors has to be urgently changed. GPs shouldn’t be paid just for referring people to stop smoking services, they should be paid for helping them to successfully quit.'
Janet Fyle, of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “It is disappointing to see the figures going in the wrong direction. 'There is ample evidence on the impact of smoking on the health of the pregnant mother and child, and we advice all women who are pregnant or trying to conceive to do their best to give up smoking.'
Public health minister, Gillian Merron, said 'The NHS Stop Smoking Services give people the best possible chance of stubbing out a dangerous habit for good, improving their opportunity to lead a healthy life and saving thousands of lives every year. 'We provide high quality, cost-effective support and advice that is clinically proven to work in helping people to stop smoking, and will continue to do so, with extra help for those who need it most.'
Reference: Fewer smokers kicking the habit - despite the NHS spending a record £74m NHS quitting campaign by Jenny Hope, Mail Online, 8/21/2009.