Health trust starts countdown to smokefree status

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has launched its one-year countdown to becoming '˜smokefree'.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 03 April, 2017, 09:25
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust

In order to help reduce the number of people who smoke and the serious illnesses associated with smoking, the trust has made public its pledge for all of its hospitals and community sites to be completely ‘smokefree’ from March 31, 2018.

Dr Gbenga Afolabi, medical director and respiratory consultant who is leading the ‘smokefree’ project at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “Having spent my 20-year career caring for people with the deep-rooted ill-effects of smoking I am extremely proud that Northumbria has taken this bold step to go smokefree.”

Despite declines in smoking prevalence over recent decades, 18.7% of adults in the North East still smoke and tobacco use remains the single largest cause of health inequalities and premature death.

For every death caused by smoking, approximately 20 smokers are suffering from smoking-related disease while smoking during pregnancy is associated with a range of negative health outcomes for mother and baby.

The region has an ambition to reduce smoking prevalence even further to just 5% of our population by 2025. This will bring substantial health benefits to local communities and help save almost £18million for the NHS in Northumberland and North Tyneside alone.

Supported by Fresh North East and Public Health England, Northumbria’s announcement of its commitment to becoming ‘smokefree’ follows the region’s two mental health trusts which did so in March 2016.

Dr Afolabi said: “As one of the country’s leading trusts and largest local employers, we have a very important role in helping the region as a whole reduce the number of people who smoke and the many serious illnesses that are linked to smoking.

“By going ‘smokefree’, it will mean a much safer and fresher environment for our patients, our visitors and our staff and will bring significant benefits for the health and wellbeing of everyone in our hospitals and using our services.

“We know, for example, that patients recover quicker from periods of illness or injury, have shorter lengths of stay in hospital, need less medication and generally have fewer complications, when they do not smoke.

“Our ‘smokefree’ ambition also sends a very clear message to our local communities about the need for people to take more responsibility and accountability for their own health and wellbeing.

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“Over the next 12 months, we will be engaging with our staff, patients and visitors to identify the most effective ways of supporting them to become ‘smokefree’ as we work towards making every part of our organisation and every one of our sites across Northumberland and North Tyneside completely ‘smokefree’ from 31 March 2018.”

If you would like support to quit smoking, please visit www.nhs.uk/livewell/smoking or call the Smokefree National Helpline to speak to a trained adviser on 0300 123 1044.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “We hugely welcome work by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to look at ways they can support more smokers to quit their tobacco dependency. Smoking is our single biggest cause of preventable illness and early death and it results in nearly half a million hospital appointments every year.

“There are so many important reasons for hospitals to be helping patients to quit. Besides adding years to someone’s life and reducing the risk of re-admissions, quitting smoking can reduce the risk of infections and improve healing after operations. Smokefree hospital grounds are only one small part of a much bigger picture.

“Helping patients to quit is not only effective, but cost effective and can save the NHS huge amounts of money. Most smokers have tried to quit, and yet many more would manage to do so successfully with the help of the NHS.”

Professor Peter Kelly, centre director for Public Health England in the North East, said: “We have made massive progress in the North East since the days in the 1970s when more than half of adults smoked, but more work needs to be done.

“Tobacco dependence is a major cause of cancers, kills people 10-15 years early and is one of the top three reasons for hospital admissions under 75. Smoking for many people is a long-term relapsing condition that we can help to treat.

“A smokefree NHS is a step towards a smokefree society and we will continue our work with NHS partners to help them create supportive environments to help patients quit.”

Northumbria’s ‘smokefree’ intention is in line with plans set out nationally in the NHS Five Year Forward View and links with our ambition for an Accountable Care Organisation (ACO) in Northumberland which will drive improvements in the overall health of the population, support people to lead healthy lifestyles and to protect themselves from wholly avoidable illness.

On No Smoking Day 2016, Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust went ‘smokefree’.