The expression “postcode lottery” is very much in vogue at present, even though it has nothing whatsoever to do with winning millions of pounds, although we feel sure there will be one somewhere. Nowadays, it is generally used to determine the performance of public bodies which fall within a certain postal area. This is what happened when evidence, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that that an increasing number of clinical commissioning groups have been instructing GPs to stop providing help to those wanting to quit smoking.
When, in 2012, local authorities were made responsible for improving public health, they were given £2.8bn of grants, which were, at the time, ring fenced. Since then the grants have been pared back and councils have become more cash strapped and have looked for services to cut to keep the books balanced, cessation of smoking was one area that was hit.
Doctors have been providing treatments such as replacement nicotine therapy in the form of Zyban and Champix. Normally counselling was also provided and the results have been impressive. Figures obtained suggest that nearly a quarter of a million people stopped smoking in the 12 months to April 2015 as a result of using the services, which is success rate of 51%. However, as an example, one County Council Worcestershire has said that services to help quit smoking will only be given to pregnant women.
This of course has put Clinical Commissioning Groups in a difficult position having to explain to patients that the service to help them is no longer available. Other groups have also been similarly affected; East Kent, York and Somerset. Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead are amongst the increasing numbers.
Pressure groups such as Ash has found that smoking cessation budgets have been cut in almost three in five authorities and it could be that more smokers wanting to stop, or reduce the amount of cigarettes they smoked, will turn to the use of vaping which, according to a recent study funded by Cancer research UK, showed that this was far safer then cigarette use.