A recent study publish in the Thorax journal, titled “Prevalence of smoking among patients treated in NHS hospitals in England in 2010/2011: a national audit”, found that if smokers were offered cessation support while admitted into a hospital, it could significantly decrease smoking rates and save funds from the British National Health Service.
The research team, from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham, and Institute for Lung Health at Glenfield Hospital, used data from The Health Improvement Network and Hospital Episode Statistics, to investigate smoking prevalence, number of smokers treated and opportunities for cessation intervention among patients treated in National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in England from April 2010 to March 2011.
They saw that roughly 1.1 million smokers are treated in English hospitals every year, accounting for a total of 2.6 million episodes of care. Furthermore, treating diseases related to smoking costs the NHS more around 8 billion dollars every year.
These numbers raise the idea that if hospitals routinely guided patients towards smoking cessation, significant reductions in the numbers of smokers and smoking associated diseases would occur. This in turn would result in striking improvements in the cost-effectiveness of NHS hospitals.
“Since smoking is entirely preventable and treatable, many hospital admissions represent an avoidable drain on scarce financial and wider NHS resources,” the authors write in their study.
Even though helping patients to quit smoking should be a priority for health services, the authors found that the numbers of smokers who receive adequate treatment and guidance for smoking from the NHS is very low and not functional. This mean the NHS is failing to treat the biggest preventable cause of disease and death in the UK, consequently failing to improve NHS cost-effectiveness.
“Smokers who are admitted to hospital include some of the poorest members of our society. This study shows that the NHS is missing regular opportunities to transform their lives through simple yet highly cost-effective measures to help them stop smoking. The health services regulators […] need to hold hospital chief executives to account and stop them ignoring the NICE recommendations to help people admitted to hospital to quit smoking,” a spokesperson for the British Thoracic Society said in a news release.
Professor Mike Kelly, Director of Public Health at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), added, “It is absurd that smoking is still being passively encouraged within hospitals. We need to end the terrible spectacle of people on drips in hospital gowns smoking outside hospital entrances. As this study highlights, there is a huge opportunity for clinicians to offer support to over 1 million smokers who present to hospital each year. By using our guidance, they can help make NHS secondary care an exemplar for promoting healthy behaviour.”