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Plan to scrap London stop smoking service is ‘short sighted’

Harrow Council says stopping the service will save £279,000

A London borough’s local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) has branded council plans to scrap smoking cessation services a “short-sighted move”.

Michael Levitan told C+D that although Harrow Council’s proposals – which it was consulting on until last week – “might save money in the short-term, [they] will increase both health and social care costs in the long-term”.

The council said stopping local stop smoking services, including “commissioned and specialist services”, from April 2017 would save £279,000.

People needing help to stop smoking would have to “find alternative resources”, such as “pharmacies who are able (if willing) to provide advice, support and over-the-counter drugs”, it said in a consultation document.

Stop smoking services have helped 1,751 people in the borough to successfully quit since April 2013, according to the council, which said cutting the service is needed to help it survive an £83 million drop in funding for 2018, compared with 2014 levels.

Local pharmacists encouraged to respond

Mr Levitan told C+D last week that Harrow LPC would respond to the consultation, and had also been involved with two local petitions. “We’ve encouraged all our contractors to respond, and their families and staff [if] they are Harrow residents.”

“There is a paper petition which has been put out by Harrow community pharmacies, and we’ve already had several hundred signatures returned to the LPC office,” he said.

“Community pharmacies were trailblazers in the early days [of the service],” he added. “They were responsible for virtually all the quits in the borough and worked extremely hard to embed the service in the primary care trust.”

Councillor Varsha Parmar, portfolio holder for public health, equality and wellbeing at Harrow Council, told C+D that the number of smokers in the borough “is one of the lowest in the country and has been decreasing year on year”.

“Like most councils across the country, we face huge financial challenges and need to look at ways to save money across all council services, while protecting our most vulnerable residents,” she added.

“If [the plans] go ahead, help will still be available through GPs and pharmacies,” Ms Parmar added.

An online petition against the council’s plans, set up by a local consultant in respiratory medicine, has secured more than 900 signatures.

Listen to Public Health England director Kevin Fenton explain why community pharmacy is one of Stoptober's main “success stories”: 

Are smoking cessation services at risk in your area?

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

Most contractors not bothered as their money mosty comes from green bits of paper.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

And while they're at it maybe they could get nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, etc. blacklisted. 

Boom Shakalaka, Locum pharmacist

I agree with scrapping this useless, patronising service.

Alan WHITEMANN, Communications

Good. Another waste of tax payers money.  If they can buy the fags, then they can buy the remedies.  Why do we have to be everybody's mummy.??? 

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

The exact problem with the NHS.  No-one wants to take responsibility for their own health. Only if someone else is paying for it.  I gave up smoking many years ago, using my own money and resources and because I decided to. And of course as we all know, the NRT is much cheaper than the fags! But smokers don't blink at paying £8 a day for 20 Benson but tell them a week of NRT is £18 and all hell breaks loose!!!! 

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Along with all the other responsibilities that many British people now feel belong to the state. Whether that be the responsibility to bring up their own children, to actually have a job or to look after their own finances. There are always people on the other side who profit from taking on responsibilities that ought to belong to the individual. 

Anybody who works in community pharmacy will know how large a percentage of the adult population are now essentially overgrown children. People who are not willing to think, who want everything done for them, who will shout and scream when they don't get their own way. 

This is very much the division in our country today. Those who are net contributors, not just economically, but socially and culturally and those others who are net consumers. Many people in the state and private sector have realised there is employment/profit to be skimmed from this interaction. This scam is sustained by labelling anybody who questions the validity of such a system as uncaring and those who support it as virtuous. Wiping people's backsides is therefore not only very profitable but can also be done whilst projecting virtue. Quite clever really. 

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

Dead right, however, does not fit in with C&D agenda.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

A perfect explanation of many of today's problems in the UK. 

Jaz Kaur, Pharmacy

Shaun, I think we can also highlight that the proportion  of those contributing is shrinking compared to those "taking".

Hemant Patel, Community pharmacist

Less than 0.02% of income comes from this service. It would be interesting to see how many pharmacies were signed up to provide the service, what the annual target was, how many actually reached the target and what was the spread of number of quitters. Are less than 20% contributing more than80% quits or is it more wide spread? Is it an opportunity for a private service? Will the petition be more useful the NPA petition re pharmacy closure? Should pharmacies be switching to selling less harmful e-cigs (cf methadone instead of opioids)? Should pharmacies campaign (yeah, petition!) to sell cannabis? Or, simply, as usual, do nothing and let the LPC get its BP UP?

Alan WHITEMANN, Communications

Yes, Hemant some very interesting points you raise . 

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