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Cigarettes and Alcohol... What is their place in the NHS Long Term Plan?

The purpose of the NHS Long Term Plan is to focus on prevention to save hundreds, of thousands of lives (500,000 lives over the next 10 years). We've known for years that we need to shift away from a system that focuses solely on treatment and toward one that can forecast and prevent illness. We all want people to need the NHS less and later in life, to stay healthy for longer, to work for longer, and to stay at home for longer when they are sick. We also want to make sure that those with the worst health outcomes receive the assistance they require to improve their quality of life.

With this in mind there are two main areas of focus are smoking cessation and the lowering of the average alcohol intake.

The NHS aims to be a more powerful driving force in the battle against smoking and the NHS has committed to embedding the Ottawa Model for smoking cessation. This means that anyone who is admitted to the hospital and smokes will be offered assistance and support in quitting. This offer will be adapted for expectant mothers and their partners, so families can kick the habit together, meaning the chances of still birth, miscarriage and sudden infant death will be reduced. Given that smoking remains England’s biggest killer, ending the life of 200 people every day, this could be a big ask.

There will also be focused support for alcohol dependent people. Alcohol Care Teams (ACT) are to be established in those hospitals with the highest rate of alcohol dependence-related admissions. Alcohol-related harm is estimated to cost the NHS in England £3.5 billion every year. ACTs in Bolton, Salford, Nottingham, Liverpool, London and Portsmouth have already seen a reduction in A&E attendances and readmissions. Expert ACTs will now work at up to 50 hospitals as part of the LTP to provide access to medical care within 24 hours, potentially preventing 50,000 admissions over the next five years.

At EK Interactive we believe that there are steps that can be taken within GP practices, to aid both of these aims, both smoking cessation and alcohol limitation, long before patients get to hospitals. Which is why we worked on developing the pathways of our self-screening health kiosks…

Smoking Cessation:

Smoking decreased in the UK by 9% from 2009 and another 3% from 2018! Whist smoking is indeed in the decline, it still accounted for approximately 74,600 deaths in 2019 in England and it is estimated by the Smokefree Action Coalition that a staggering 280 children start smoking every single day. Research has shown that all GPs tend to question the smoking status of new patients, but fewer routinely ask this of regular patients, even though the majority of smokers see their GP at least once a year. It has also been shown that light smokers are less likely to receive advice to quit from their GP than moderate to heavy smokers. As part of achieving a smoke free 2030, the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health) has suggested that all smokers are advised to quit at least annually and given opt-out referral to stop smoking services as a matter of course.

Alcohol Intake Assessment:

To establish a patient’s alcohol intake it is important to assess - How often do they have a drink containing alcohol? How many units of alcohol do they drink on a typical day when drinking? How often have they had 6 or more units if female, or 8 or more if male, on a single occasion in the last year?

How can the kiosk help?

Most of our pathways currently ask patients for their smoking status and ask them if they would like to quit. If they would like to quit, then our standard advisory message asks them to go to reception for further advice. To make the most of this opportunity to engage with patients on their smoking status we suggest that this message is customised to meet the needs of your practice. For example, you could direct patients to a local stop smoking group or to online resources. One of our practices has recently made a member of staff responsible for following up with patients who have selected that they would like to quit smoking, to proactively offer them help and advice. With regards to alcohol consumption the questions asked can make a patient aware of whether their alcohol intake levels are something that should be addressed.

If you are a healthcare clinician or GP practice manager that would like to see how our self-screening health kiosk works, then we'd be happy to arrange a demo for you - contact us by email on or call 01223 812737.

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