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Pharmacy smoking cessation services hailed as DH rumoured to ditch tobacco plan

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) believes pharmacy’s smoking cessation services are an “integral” part of the sector’s offering, while the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) believes they should be further expanded, the organisations have told C+D.

Their comments follow rumours that the government might not deliver on its pledge to publish its anti-smoking action plan.

In 2019, the government first committed to making Britain “smoke-free” by 2030, cutting the proportion of adults who smoke down to 5%.

Meanwhile, in February, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) pledged to publish the new Tobacco Control Plan “later this year”.

However, speaking to LBC radio on Tuesday (October 11), new health secretary Thérèse Coffey – who has consistently voted against smoking bans – admitted that she did not know if the government policy was on track to be achieved by 2030, “because I haven’t looked into this specific prevention policy”.

Read more: Thérèse Coffey: What is the new health secretary’s history with pharmacy?

It follows a report in The Guardian on Tuesday suggesting the plan would be ditched. The report also revealed the government did not plan to endorse recommendations to spend an extra £125 million encouraging smokers to quit.

However, the DH told C+D that it is “inaccurate” to suggest the Tobacco Control Plan has been scrapped (read more of the DH’s reply below).

Following reports in the national media, the NPA told C+D the government should continue to focus “on this incredibly important public health intervention”, while the CCA is asking to invest further in community pharmacy’s smoking cessation services.


Smoking cessation services “critical part of community pharmacies”


Helga Mangion, policy manager at the NPA, told C+D that smoking cessation services “are an integral part of what local pharmacies provide their communities” and have already helped “thousands of people each month successfully kick the habit”.

“Community pharmacy is committed to tackling health inequalities and part of that is reducing levels of smoking. We argue for a continued focus on this incredibly important public health intervention,” Ms Mangion said.

Pharmacies can join public health campaigns such as Stoptober to help their patients stop smoking, and since March this year, they have been able to offer a new advanced smoking cessation service – which sees NHS trusts referring discharged patients to a community pharmacy of their choice to help them continue their smoking cessation pathway.

CCA CEO Malcolm Harrison stressed that “smoking cessation services are a critical part of community pharmacies’ contribution to public health”.

To undertake the advanced service, pharmacy teams have undergone specialist training “to meet the needs of their patients referred in”, he added.

“Rather than cutting back, the government should be taking the trained and experienced teams, on every high street, and commission a comprehensive smoking service. Regardless of any national target, community pharmacy services are essential to our country’s public health,” he told C+D.

As of March, 2,100 pharmacies had registered to deliver the advanced smoking cessation service.


DH: “No decisions have been taken”


A spokesperson for the DH told C+D on Tuesday that it was “inaccurate” to suggest that the tobacco control plan was being dropped and that the government “remains committed to its smoke-free ambition by 2030”.

“We are currently considering the wide range of recommendations set out in the Khan Review and how best to take these forward. We will set out our next steps for the plan in due course,” they added.

Earlier this year in June, a major review led by Dr Javed Khan advised that smoking should be banned in outdoor spaces such as beer gardens, cafe pavements and beaches.

Read more: Pharmacy smoking cessation service set for slow start, PSNC anticipates

The government-commissioned review also warned that England would miss its “smoke-free 2030 target by at least seven years and the poorest areas in society will not meet it until 2044”, unless urgent reforms were brought in.

Last month, contractors warned C+D that proposals put forward by the government, which could also see the entire national anti-obesity strategy dropped, were “completely unsustainable” and could trigger increased demand for pharmacies’ already popular weight-loss services.

Following negotiations for years 4 and 5 of the English pharmacy contract, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee revealed last month that the service specification for the smoking cessation service will be “amended to allow delivery by pharmacy technicians”.


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