Doctors’ plea after key Stop Smoking Service in Havering axed

1500 Havering residents are predicted to miss out on the support they need. Picture: PA.

1500 Havering residents are predicted to miss out on the support they need. Picture: PA. - Credit: Archant

Health chiefs have pleaded for a decision to cut a vital service which helps hundreds of people give up smoking each year to be reversed.

Medical director Nadeem Moghal

Medical director Nadeem Moghal - Credit: Archant

The withdrawal of the Stop Smoking Service is predicted to significantly increase tobacco-related hospital admissions in Havering.

Doctors have estimated 1,500 smokers will not receive the support they need to quit each year, leading to 500 avoidable hospital admissions.

At a meeting of the board of Barking Havering and Redbridge NHS Hospital Trust, which runs Queen’s Hospital, Romford, and King George Hospital, Goodmayes, members said Havering Council had not consulted it about the closure of the service, which ended last Friday.

A report produced to the board at Wednesday’s meeting said: “This disinvestment will have a disproportionate effect on people with long term conditions and mental health problems who need more intensive support to quit.

“It will have a material impact by increasing emergency attendances, admissions and length of stay.”

Medical director Dr Nadeem Moghul said: “This is a very short-term solution with no serious consideration into the long-term health impact on the individual or our organisation.”

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“No one was consulted before this decision was made and we are now asking that elected members will reconsider.”

Dr Rob Fowler, who helped produced the paper, said: “The council has not grasped how much of a health issue smoking is.”

“Smoking cessation is clearly not a health priority despite the fact that smoking mortality rates are more than twice that for obesity.”

During a council meeting last month, the interim director of public health Susan Milner lamented the fact that public health grants had received a significant in-year cut of £688,000 in addition to a further cut of about £1 million in 2016/17.

Cllr Wendy Brice-Thompson, cabinet member for adult social services and health, said: “The cuts to the council’s budgets, including the ring fenced public health grant, have been so severe that we’ve had to make some very difficult choices about how we spend our money to best effect.”

Online support offered by the council as an alternative has been criticised by the trust.

Websites such as advises people to visit their “free local Stop Smoking Service” – the exact service which has been decommissioned from April 1.

Just last month, new data revealed Havering to be the most successful borough in the capital for getting people to stop smoking.

In 2014/2015, of Havering’s 35,000 smokers, 1763 set a quit date with the stop-smoking service of these, 1,223 had quit after four weeks.