Alan Sutherland 06 May 2020

Helping smokers to quit during Covid-19

Helping smokers to quit during Covid-19 image

Kicking smoking is a difficult task, and one that is often daunting to many smokers. With NHS services currently under extreme pressure due to Covid-19, it is likely that a lack of funding paired with limited access to healthcare professionals will leave smokers to ‘go it alone’. In stark contrast to this, smokers are being urged by healthcare experts to quit smoking to increase the body’s natural defences.

Smoking cessation services have been fading into the background for some time. In fact, according to an ASH survey, funding cuts across England meant almost a third of local authorities no longer provide specialist stop smoking services. In addition, official data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government saw local authority spending on stop smoking services decline by 36% between 2014/15 and 2018/19.

So, what is the solution for local authorities who are often charged with the delivery of smoker cessation programmes at a local level?

Strategy before action

Local authorities provide some of the most critical public services that exist in the UK. Smoking cessation programmes are just one part of these. In many cases local authorities are also supporting the most vulnerable whose health is frequently impacted by smoking. For instance, it is estimated that around 30% of smokers in the UK have a mental health condition and more than 40% of adults with a serious mental illness smoke.

Having to deliver critical services against the backdrop of an unprecedented global pandemic is creating an increasingly challenging situation for already overstretched local authorities.

Therefore, it’s vital that local authorities consider the unique needs of their community and contrast this with neighbouring boroughs. Is there a way in which you can collaborate and potentially share smoking cessation information or resources without compromising on the quality of service provision to the public?

Whilst we navigate choppy waters interim planning is critical. Map your strategy against short, mid and long-term goals. Local authorities may need to embrace short term tactics to be able to adapt and cope with the current climate.

Embrace cloud technologies

If you are not doing this already, it is something you need to implement now. In the private sector, most if not all employees are being forced to work from home as remote working becomes the norm. The impact of this is that cloud-based technologies such as Zoom, WebEx, Teams and Google Meet are quickly becoming household names.

Too often local authorities are using dated technology built on in house servers and public sector employees cannot easily take advantage of cloud-based options that bring excellent features and scalability. Taking into consideration your local authority’s specific requirements will be critical to developing a plan that unlocks the benefits of the cloud without compromising security, daily administrative activities, existing legacy systems or wasting budget.

Think virtual

Just a few years ago you would have been laughed out of the classroom if you suggested a virtual meeting. In a Covid-19 world, it’s the norm.

Whilst a virtual experience is unlikely to replace or match the benefits of face-to-face appointments, they are the next best thing and there will be great value in permanently adopting such practices after Covid-19. Critical virtual support for smokers looking to quit comes in many forms, including virtual cessation groups, one-to-one video appointments, regular phone calls and so much more. This is a change which should stay and grow. Why? Because, despite the fact that many smokers want to quit, one in five (22%) smokers say that they haven’t because it’s too hard, according to a Censuswide survey commissioned by Kind Consumer earlier this year.

Furthermore, half of smokers have tried to quit smoking up to three times in the last year alone, without success. This could imply that some smokers do not feel supported by the measures currently in place to help them cut down or stop smoking.

Unfortunately, despite the recent health scare many smokers are still struggling and there appears to be a shortfall in the support and advice available to smokers, resulting in multiple failed attempts to quit. With the government’s tobacco control plan towards a smoke-free generation to be achieved by 2022 in England, including reducing smoking in adults from 14.4% to 12%, there is still a long way to go.

Virtual support is an important element to tackling smoking. It’s not the whole solution but it is part of it as well as being something which can be implemented even in difficult times. We would encourage, for instance, the adoption of virtual consultations with Stop Smoking Advisors either as a one-to-one or as a group session.

Find strength in collaboration

How we join forces across public and private sectors will have a significant impact on smoking cessation and the health of the nation. Knowledge sharing and innovation are two key areas Kind Consumer can help with and it is something we plan to explore further in a post Covid-19 world.

Alan Sutherland is CEO of Kind Consumer Ltd

The power of local systems to save lives image

The power of local systems to save lives

Councils and their partners could do even more to contain the spread of COVID-19 if properly funded to undertake a robust localised system of testing, tracking and tracing, argues Professor Donna Hall.
‘We’re not in it for the money’ image

‘We’re not in it for the money’

Emma Lewis, a member of the Victims and Survivors Panel at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, explores what redress really means for survivors.
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Principal Flood Risk Officer

Lancashire County Council
We have an exciting opportunity for a Principal Floor Risk Officer Lancashire
Recuriter: Lancashire County Council

Duke of Edinburgh Youth Support Worker

Essex County Council
£14597.0 - £19106.0 per month
Please note this is a part time contract - annualised hours 106 per year. Therefore the actual salary range is from £995.44 up to £1049.79 per annum. England, Essex, Harlow
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Head of Internal Audit

Kent County Council
Up to £97,000 + benefits
We now have an exciting opportunity to strengthen and shape our Audit function, as... Maidstone, Kent
Recuriter: Kent County Council

Director of Children’s Services

St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council
circa £120,000
This is an exceptional opportunity for someone who wants to make a real difference to the children, young people and families of our Borough. St Helens, Merseyside
Recuriter: St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council

Assistant Director, Social Care & Public Health Commissioning

Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council
c£71,000 to £89,000 per annum
Reporting to the Director of Strategic Commissioning you will lead Commissioning in the context of a developing Integrated Care System.  Bolton, Greater Manchester
Recuriter: Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue