More than 2,000 community pharmacies in England are now providing a smoking cessation service (SCS) for discharged hospital patients, government documents have revealed.
The figure emerged in an announcement of a government tender, published on 27 May 2022, that will look at digital requirements to support the current community pharmacy contract. According to the announcement, 2,200 pharmacies had registered for the SCS within the first two months of it going live on 10 March 2022.
The SCS is an advanced service under the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework, originally piloted in Oldham, Greater Manchester in 2020/2021, and is intended to provide follow-up stop-smoking care for patients who have recently been discharged from hospital. The NHS long term plan says that, by 31 March 2024, anyone admitted to hospital who smokes should be offered NHS-funded tobacco treatment services.
Pharmacies providing the service receive a set-up fee of £1,000. They will also receive £30 for a patient’s first consultation, £10 for interim consultations and a final fee of £40 for a patient’s final consultation.
Fin McCaul, chair of Greater Manchester local pharmaceutical committee, where the scheme was piloted, said: “The hospitals are smoke free zones, so the patients are initiated on nicotine replacement therapy, or the smoking cessation therapy, while they’re in there. And a significant number then want to continue when they come out of hospital and try to kick the habit.
“We know that stopping smoking is very difficult to do, so many of these patients will take a few attempts at getting it. And it’s brilliant that we’ve got pharmacy on the front line now working with secondary care to help these patients quit.”
Mc Caul added: “To be good at smoking cessation, you need to have lots of patients to see on a regular basis. And the numbers that are coming out of the hospital are still quite small at the minute.”
Commenting on the smoking cessation service take-up, Rosie Taylor, head of service development at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said: “It is encouraging to see that community pharmacy contractors have recognised the importance of this service as part of wider efforts to increase clinical service provision in pharmacy and to further cement the sector’s role in public health. This is despite other work coinciding with the service’s launch, such as the 2021/2022 Pharmacy Quality Scheme.
“We are, however, within the early days of the rollout of the Ottawa model within hospitals, so there will be no big-bang start for the service and it will likely take two years for referrals to reach a steady state. Contractors have had to bear that in mind, as well as the local situation with their nearby hospitals when deciding whether to provide the service.”
There has been a decline in local authority-commissioned smoking cessation services provided by community pharmacies, with The Pharmaceutical Journal revealing in 2018 that almost a fifth of local authorities in England had decommissioned pharmacy-led smoking cessation services in the previous three years.