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Looking to quit? Our teams are here to help

Wednesday, 13 March marks the 40th annual No Smoking Day across the UK. It is an opportunity for the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) to highlight the importance of quitting smoking, the services it provides and those available to communities living in and around west Suffolk.

Prevention is a key priority for the Trust, as this ensures local communities live healthy and happy lives. In west Suffolk, 12.9% of the population are reported as current smokers, and with 50% of smokers predicted to die prematurely of a smoking-related disease, reducing rates of smoking in the area is a key focus for the Trust’s public health team.

In April 2023, the Trust established its dedicated tobacco dependence service, in line with the national tobacco dependency programme. Almost one year on, the service is fully integrated into the Trust’s public health team, providing inpatients who smoke with support during their stay in hospital, and further support to quit if they would like it after they leave. From April 2023 to date, the service has supported more than 800 inpatients.

All inpatients who are referred to the tobacco dependence team are visited by a smoking cessation professional, and provided with motivational support and advice to help them quit. As of 2024, the team have also been prescribing nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to help them stay smoke-free during their inpatient stay.

As a result of their work, 28% of patients referred to the service maintained their ‘quit’ at their 28-day follow up; helping them to reduce their chances of developing smoking-related illnesses, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer and heart disease.

Jessica Hulbert, public health manager for the Trust, discussed the impact the team has had on inpatients who smoke: “Patients aren’t able to smoke while in hospital, and the withdrawal process can cause anxiety, headaches, and emotional overwhelm. So, it’s really important that we use this opportunity to help support them to quit.

“Hospital inpatients who are not smoking usually have better outcomes. Not smoking means recovery times are often faster, wounds heal more easily, and without the chemicals from cigarettes in their body, patients are healthier.”

As well as the tobacco dependence programme, the Trust has a smoke free pregnancy team, with specially trained midwives encouraging women and pregnant people to remain smoke free during their pregnancy.

The Trust’s smoke free pregnancy team are particularly important as Suffolk has a slightly higher percentage of female smokers when compared to the national average. Stopping smoking during pregnancy reduces the risk of complications in pregnancy and birth, premature birth, stillbirth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The Trust’s maternity services see 250 new women and pregnant people each month, 20% of which are smokers. Of this 20%, half of them stop smoking without support upon finding out that they are pregnant. The other half are invited to engage with the smoke free pregnancy team, who provide extensive support to help them quit.

Before the programme was rolled out, the Trust saw 11% of women and pregnant people smoking at the time of delivery. The Trust has now seen this drop significantly to 7.5%, showcasing the positive impact the smoke free pregnancy team are having as it makes progress towards the 6% national target.

The smoke free pregnancy team is led by specialist midwife, Jackie Coleman, who provides guidance to people hoping to get pregnant, or are currently pregnant, who smoke. She said: “My advice is to seek help. We understand that it isn’t easy. Nicotine addiction is hard, but by using nicotine replacement therapy, we can support you to be smoke free. Swap to stop. That’s what we’re here for, with non-judgemental support.”

Also involved in the Trust’s no smoking campaign is Philip Gladwell, leader of the Bury St Edmunds Breathe Easy group and member of the Tobacco Dependence Service committee.

Philip, a smoker of 47 years, started smoking aged 14, and in his early 20s was a British Champion cyclist. He noticed little effect on his health while he was younger, but as time went on, he started to deteriorate. Philip caught pneumonia twice, had lung cancer, and is now on oxygen permanently.

Philip advised young people who are starting to smoke or thinking about picking up a cigarette: “Don’t do it. Now I’m on oxygen – this deterioration is going to happen to anyone who smokes, but you don’t realise it until it’s too late.

“If you are a smoker looking to quit, seek out support to help you, as there are many options such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy which proved really effective for me.”

The Bury St Edmunds Breathe Easy group meets on the last Wednesday of each month at the Southgate Centre at 1.30pm. The singing for lung health group – a Breathe Easy initiative – meets every Wednesday at 1.45pm (except the last Wednesday of each month) at the Southgate Centre and costs £5 to attend.

For more support, please visit the WSFT website or Feel Good Suffolk.           

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