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'Distressing' levels of smoking among people with mental health conditions

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Smoking levels need to be tackled quickly Smoking cessation training must be provided to all mental health clinicians

Smoking is the largest contributor to early deaths in people with mental health conditions, a new report from smoking cessation charity ASH has said.

The Stolen Years: Mental health and smoking action sets out a series of recommendations to strengthen smoking cessation services for people with mental health conditions. The ambition of the report is to reduce smoking to less than 5% by 2035, with an interim target of 35% by 2020.

Ian Hulatt, the mental health advisor at the RCN, said that it was 'distressing' that there was a continuing health gap for people with mental health conditions.

'It takes considerable personal strength and expert professional support to beat an addiction to smoking, especially for those with mental health problems. Nurses have a vital combination of expertise and empathy which can be used to give people that strength, but it needs time and resources that are often unavailable.
Investing time and money in this now will save NHS funds in the long run, not to mention removing an avoidable source of distress for many people,' he added.

There are 12 ambitions outlined in the report including ensuring all inpatient and community mental health sites are smokefree by 2018. This should be achieved through full implementation of NICE guidance, in particular, PH48 and PH45. All residential and community mental health settings should provide advice and in-house specialist tailored stop-smoking support or referral to appropriate stop smoking services.

Another recommendation is that all staff in mental health settings, both community and in-patient, should be given training so smoking reduction becomes a core part of their role.The report calls on Health Education England to support education in smoking-related condtions and cessation services for mental health nurses and other mental health clinicians.

Paul Burstow, former Health Minister and Chair of the Tavistock and Portman Mental Health Trust and chair of the report, said: 'It is time to challenge the idea that smoking among people with mental health conditions is either inevitable or intractable: it it not. With a determined and collective effort we can save millions of people from early death and avoid years of life being blighted by heart and lung diseases, stroke and cancer.'

The report has been endorsed by a number of healthcare organisations including the RCN, the Mental Health Nurses Association, the Primary Care Respiratory Society UK and Cancer Research UK.

People with mental health conditions die on average 10-20 years earlier than than the general population and smoking has been found to be the largest factor in this difference.A third of all tobacco in England is now smoked by someone with a mental health condition.

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