NHS patches 'fail to help quitters'
Offering smokers free nicotine patches or intensive counselling via an NHS helpline does nothing to help them quit, a Government-funded study has found.
Giving people extra packages of support would have no effect on the number of smokers who stop, a trial of different interventions showed. It follows data released last August which showed that while more people in England are trying to quit with NHS help, success rates have fallen.
The new study, funded by the Department of Health and the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, is published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Researchers from the University of Nottingham, which is home to the Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, conducted the study on 2,600 smokers. From the results the authors concluded that offering people extra telephone counselling and free NRT through a helpline cannot be recommended.
Professor Tim Coleman, from Nottingham, led the study, and said: "I think the results highlight just how hard it is for most people to break their addiction to tobacco and just how powerful and damaging a drug this is.
"On the basis of this study, giving out free nicotine patches and more intensive telephone counselling through the English national quitline just doesn't seem to work.
"It brings into sharp relief the need to find other ways of using quitlines help smokers give up and so to reduce the terrible effects smoking has on people's lives and the costly burden to the NHS."
The total amount spent on England's NHS Stop Smoking Services in 2010/11 was £84.3 million, NHS data shows. This is almost £500,000 more than in the previous year and almost £60 million more than a decade ago.
Last August, figures showed the number of people trying to quit smoking via NHS services has roughly trebled over the last decade but success rates have fallen. In 2010/11, there were almost 788,000 "quit dates" set with NHS Stop Smoking Services, with almost 384,000 successful attempts.
The overall success rate is now 49%, the same as the previous year, but down on the 53% recorded in 2001/02.