HEALTH workers have helped almost 600 people to quit smoking in the past year.

Specialist stop smoking services provided by Derwentside Primary Care Trust and GP practices helped people to stop within four weeks.

This shows a 300 per cent increase in the number of people who were successfully helped to stop at four weeks, compared with the previous year, when 191 people had stopped at four weeks.

The success has been attributed to a new approach.

From July 2003, stop smoking services have been delivered through GP practices in the area, with practice nurses and other health professionals being trained to give advice and support to patients.

Barbara Broadfoot, stop smoking advisor for the trust said: "By providing stop smoking services in GP practices it has made it easier for local people to get advice and support.

"We have continued to provide Stop Smoking Groups in the area, but local people now have a greater choice of where to go for help."

Ms Broadfoot added: "We have found that the number of people accessing the support services has increased dramatically over the past few years, with 1,148 seeking help in 2003-2004 compared with only 393 in 2001-2002.

"The Stop Smoking team and everyone involved in the service in GP practices are delighted that the number of people who have successfully stopped at the four-week follow-up point has also increased."

People who want to stop smoking are offered free support and advice about how to quit and nicotine replacement therapy or Zyban, which is available on prescription.

Anyone who needs help giving up can contact their local GP, or call Ms Broadfoot on (01207) 214630.