10 September 2013

GPs Should Proactively Ask Their Patients Whether They Smoke

Proactively asking patients whether they smoke and offering advice on how to stop can help them quit the habit, according to NICE.

Tobacco consumption remains the UK's single greatest cause of preventable illness. While the number of people who smoke has been falling steadily in recent years, a fifth of the population still smokes.

A range of effective methods are available to help smokers quit, including the NHS stop-smoking services which were recently hailed for their success, following research published by the BMJ.

However, figures show that people who are identified as smokers are not always being presented with advice on how to quit the habit.

In 2011, GPs raised the issue of stopping smoking with just 30 per cent of identified smokers, 11 per cent of patients were advised to stop but not offered any help, and in 5 per cent of cases though patients said they smoked, they were not advised to stop.

NICE's quality standard on smoking cessation includes five statements designed to help improve the support offered to people who want to stop smoking.

It recommends primary care professionals ask patients whether they smoke, and that those who smoke are offered advice on how to stop.

NICE says that it is important for healthcare practitioners to be proactive in this, as evidence shows that smokers are receptive to smoking cessation advice in healthcare settings.

In addition, the quality standard recommends that people who smoke are offered a referral to an evidence-based smoking cessation service.

This is because while smoking cessation services provide the most effective route to stopping smoking, many people who do smoke do not use these services when they try to stop.

It is therefore important that practitioners are aware of and make use of the opportunities to refer people who smoke to an evidence-based smoking cessation service.

The Department of Health has co-produced a set of ten short training videos, which can offer help with providing very brief advice on quitting smoking.

The videos are developed by the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training, and constitute part of a 30-minute training module.