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Stub it out for good with Help Me Quit

A group of women wearing scrubs standing outside a hospital

If your New Year’s resolution to stop smoking has already gone up in flames, it’s not too late to try again.

Smokers looking to give up for good are up to three times more likely to do so with the support offered by a dedicated service.

The Help Me Quit service offers 12 weeks of free behavioural and emotional support through individual or group meetings.

Patients can access weekly sessions, either over the phone or face-to-face, where discussions involve why they smoke, behavioural changes and stresses.

They are also provided with 12 weeks’ worth of stop smoking medication, such as nicotine patches, to help lessen withdrawal symptoms.

Pictured: The Help Me Quit team outside Cimla Health and Social Care Centre. (L-R) Smoking cessation practitioner (SCP) Linda David, engagement facilitator Anne Miles, Help Me Quit service manager Susan O’Rourke, SCP Sian Roberts, engagement facilitator Lillian Davies and SCP Nia Evans.

As well as the obvious health benefits, giving up smoking also means saving money, given the current cost of living pressures, can be a big help.

For example, smoking 20 king size cigarettes a day costs around £380 a month.

A group of women wearing scrubs standing outside a hospital

Susan O’Rourke, the health board’s service development manager for smoking cessation, said: “Patients can go along to their GP surgery or a community-based setting for our sessions, which are led by a smoking cessation practitioner.

“During Covid we were doing telephone-based support but we are now back to doing face-to-face as well.

“GPs and practice staff can refer patients to us or they can refer themselves. They will be contacted and offered a suite of services, which could be telephone calls, a face-to-face meeting or group meeting, a referral to a pharmacy or virtual sessions.

“Once they have chosen their preference, they then get booked in with a practitioner.”

In recent months, the Welsh Government launched a Tobacco Control Strategy which sets out an ambition for Wales to be smoke-free by 2030.

This means reducing smoking prevalence rates among adults to five per cent or less over the next seven years.

“At the moment Swansea Bay is currently between 13 and 14 per cent,” Susan added.

“It is proven that by receiving behavioural change support and nicotine replacement therapy, you’re more likely to quit smoking than trying it alone.

“People can be intimidated by a group setting but it’s just quitting with others. What some people find is there are others there who are a couple of weeks ahead or who have joined at the same time who can offer support and motivation.

“As well as the support offered during the weekly sessions, we do lifestyle chats as well to talk about what’s happening in their lives and especially their worries and concerns behind why they’re smoking.

“We are working closely with the Education Patient Programme (EPP), and hope to soon deliver a service on preparing to quit, run by volunteers who have been successfully supported by the service.

“Some people talk about their mental health concerns and we’ve had a lot of people coming through because of the cost of living crisis.”

While giving up smoking provides both health and financial benefits, it also helps to ease the burden on the NHS.

Susan said: “If somebody gives up smoking, it benefits other chronic conditions they may have so it can help to ease the burden on ED admissions and GP appointments.

“Smoking is the number one cause of avoidable premature death.

“It’s linked to a number of serious and often fatal conditions, such as lung cancer, COPD and heart attacks.

“To improve people’s health and life expectancy and to reduce the pressures on the NHS, we’re all encouraged to refer the local smoking population to Help Me Quit.”

A group of women wearing scrubs standing in a hospital reception

The HMQ integrated team is also based in secondary care, and support staff and patients across the Swansea Bay area, including priority groups such as pregnant people and their families.

Members of the team have recently helped patients at the step down unit in Cefn Coed Hospital, which offers them the support and care they need before going back into the wider community.

Claire Smith, unit manager, said the service had been invaluable.

She said: “We have had patients successfully stop smoking since the smoking cessation practitioner started visiting weekly.

“She engaged with our patients within a group and has discussed plans to stop smoking and the benefits of this.

“Some of our patients that have stopped smoking have done so for 16 weeks now.

“This has had a positive impact on their physical and mental well-being.

“The patients and staff team are very proud of their achievements and hope it will encourage others to engage with the service and try and stop smoking for themselves.”

Referrals can be made to the local team by emailing or contacting the national HMQ number on 0800 085 2219.

All GP practices across Swansea Bay can refer patients who want to get help to quit smoking.

Dr Kannan Muthuvairavan, based at Estuary Group Practice, which sits within the  Llwchwr Local Cluster Collaborative (LCC), said: “Patients are up to three times more likely to stop smoking good if you use a combination of stop smoking treatment and receive support from an NHS stop smoking service.

“Local stop smoking services are free, friendly and can massively boost the patient’s chances of quitting for good.

“The NHS stop smoking service are staffed by expert advisers who provide a range of proven methods to help people quit smoking.”

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