CAMPAIGNERS were in Parliament yesterday calling for the NHS to do more to help prevent hospital admissions and deaths from smoking.

NHS organisations across the country are being urged to sign the NHS Smokefree Pledge to support patients to quit and create tobacco free environments that support them to stop.

The pledge has been developed by the Smokefree Action Coalition and endorsed by Steve Brine MP, the Public Health Minister, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, and other health leaders.

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Helping to launch the Smokefree Pledge in Parliament was Dr Tony Branson, consultant oncologist with Newcastle Hospitals’ and clinical Lead for the Northern Cancer Alliance, and who is also the co-chairman of the North East Smokefree NHS/ Treating Tobacco Dependency Taskforce.

Dr Branson said: “Tobacco is the single biggest cause of cancer, kills smokers on average ten years early and is one of the main causes of hospital admissions. As providers of healthcare we must be more proactive in asking about smoking and offering help and support to quit.”

The pledge supports work in the North-East, where a Smokefree NHS/Treating Tobacco Dependency taskforce has been set up to work with NHS trusts to ensure all patients who smoke are offered support to quit, with a goal of April 2019 for all the region’s NHS trusts to be implementing NICE guidance for smoking.

Smoking is the leading cause of premature death and disease with one in two smokers being killed as a result of lifetime tobacco smoking. It also places a major burden on the NHS with one in four patients in hospital smoking.

In the North-East, smoking results in 104 hospital admissions every day and more than 38,000 a year at a time when the NHS is under more pressure than ever.

Dr Branson said: “The NHS is more stretched than ever before but treating tobacco dependency is one of the single most effective ways we can improve outcomes for patients, and reduce the chances of them being re-admitted to hospital.

“This is a vital opportunity for the NHS to tackle this issue and help us reduce the burden of smoking related diseases on our wards and across local communities.”

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “The North-East has set a vision of five per cent of people smoking by 2025 and if we are to get there, the NHS must play a strong prevention role. The evidence is strong that tackling smoking is cost effective and can save the NHS millions of pounds.”

In the North-East, a regional initiative to tackle smoking in pregnancy by helping midwives to raise the issue with women who smoke helped reduce maternal smoking from 22 per cent to 16 per cent, and resulted in a doubling of quitting rates among women who smoke.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Most smokers want to quit and we’re seeing good progress on lower smoking rates. To build on this we’d now like to see NHS organisations across the country sign up to the NHS Smokefree Pledge.”

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said: “Given that most smokers want to quit, this is an unparalleled opportunity for NHS staff to do all possible to help them quit.”

A report by the British Thoracic Society in 2016 found that support to quit smoking is not routinely offered to patients, with nearly three out of four patients not asked if they would like to quit and only one in 13 patients who smoke referred to stop smoking support.

Steve Brine, Public Health Minister, said: “While smoking rates are at an all-time low, it is still our country’s biggest preventable killer, so we are absolutely committed to helping people quit for life.

“The NHS Smokefree Pledge supports the bold ambitions set out in our new Tobacco Control Plan. It is fantastic to see the NHS making such a powerful statement to help us push for a smokefree generation.”

SHOPPERS GIVE US THEIR VIEWS

SHOPPERS in Darlington have given a mixed reaction to the campaign to make the NHS a smoke-free zone.

Peter Cowles, 38, of Darlington, said: “I smoke, but if I visit Darlington’s Memorial Hospital I go and do it by the bin. “The area is well out the way of patients. I think smokers should be allowed to do so on the premises but, away from the entrance because I don’t think people would appreciate that.”

The campaign is encouraging NHS organisations to sign the Smokefree Pledge to support patients to quit and create tobacco free environments that support them to stop.

Other shoppers said they worried about the impact smokers had on patients’ health.

Steven Crossings, 66, of Middleton St George said: “I’m not a smoker and I don’t agree with people smoking outside the hospital . It could impact people’s health who are going in for treatment.”

Henry Anderton, 70, of Darlington, added: “It’s good people are talking about this because, when you come out of the doors there is smoke which can damage your chest."