Smoking cessation budgets in nearly 40% of local authorities in England have been cut, according to research by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
Reading between the lines, surveyed tobacco control leads from 126 local authorities on their smoking cessation programmes. Reports of reduced service were common, and in 29% of local authorities in England these budgets have been slashed by 5%.
‘Nurses working in this area are concerned that after more than five years of financial hardship, those who are more motivated to quit have already done so,’ said Helen Donovan, professional lead for public health at the RCN. ‘Services are now left trying to help the long-term smokers with less time and fewer resources than before.’
The cuts have arisen from the government’s spending review. It pledged to shave 3.9% from local council public health budgets each year until 2020, in addition to the £200 million reduction in public health funding announced in the July budget. Tobacco control programmes are expected to be hit disproportionately, as smoking cessation services
are not mandatory for councils to provide.
‘Councils may be tempted to cut these services altogether or replace staff with less skilled support workers,’ said Ms Donovan. ‘This would be a tragic situation for smokers who need help, and for the NHS which would lose experienced, committed experts.’ Experts from ASH are calling on national action to ensure that local authorities have the funding they need to reduce smoking rates.