Patients ‘should be recommended e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking and be allowed to use them at hospitals’
- The Royal College of Physicians accused the NHS of ‘negligence’ with smokers
- According to the RCS the NHS should be offering more options to help them quit
- A report by the RCS says patients should be offered e-cigs to help them stop
- It even recommends that smokers be allowed to use e-cigs in hospital buildings
Patients should be recommended e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking and be allowed to use them at hospitals, doctors’ leaders say.
They are calling for patients to be routinely offered help in kicking the habit at GP appointments, outpatient clinics and when admitted to hospital.
The NHS’s failure to help smokers quit is as serious as not treating cancer patients, they added.
The recommendations have been drawn up by the Royal College of Physicians which has accused the NHS of being ‘negligent’ in not doing enough to help smokers quit.
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It is not yet clear whether the RCP believes patients should be allowed to use e-cigarettes in hospital communal areas or whether a special zone would be set aside.
The recommendations focus on doing more to help smokers keen to quit. Currently doctors may occasionally ask a patient whether they smoke but will not offer advice on how to give up.
The RCP, which represents 34,000 doctors, claims the vast majority of smokers want to quit but feel unable to do so.
The RCP’s report calls for patients to be routinely asked at any appointment or hospital visit whether they smoke and if they want help quitting.
If patients say yes, they should be offered nicotine patches, gum or pills – known as Champix or varenicline – as well as advice.
Doctors should also discuss e-cigarettes with patients, the report says, because although it is not the most effective method, not all patients will ‘like’ nicotine patches or gum. The report states: ‘Failure to identify and treat smokers is no less negligent than failure to identify and treat patients with cancer. Systems failure is no less negligent in this respect than individual failure. For the NHS, failure to treat tobacco dependency is unethical.’
The RCP also suggested that patients who are given access to e-cigs on hospital grounds may be more likely to give up smoking
Professor John Britton, lead editor of the report, said: ‘Treating the more than one million smokers who are admitted to hospitals every year represents a unique opportunity for the NHS to improve patients’ lives, while also saving money.
‘For too long the NHS has failed to take responsibility for smoking, while prioritising other, less effective activity.’
Duncan Selbie, of Public Health England, said: ‘We fully support the Royal College in saying by far the majority of the NHS could be doing more to help smokers to quit.’
About 16 per cent of adults are smokers, half of whom will lose an average of ten years of their life.
Smoking is estimated to cost the NHS around £2.6billion a year in hospital admissions, GP appointments and at outpatient clinics.
Izzi Seccombe, of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: ‘Councils remain committed to working with the NHS to help smokers quit. However, this is made all the more difficult by a £600million reduction to the public health budget by central government between 2016/17 and 2020/21.’
Simon Clark, of smokers’ group Forest, said: ‘Providing smoking cessation services to patients in hospital is at best a questionable use of public money. Smokers contribute £12billion a year in tobacco-related taxes. That far exceeds the estimated cost to the NHS of smoking by patients and staff.’
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