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Shropshire smoking services axe 'disastrous', expert warns

Health | Published:

Budget cuts to stop smoking services would be “disastrous” for Shropshire, councillors have been warned.

The county has an above average number of expectant mothers who are addicted to smoking, while illnesses related to the habit cost £8.26 million a year to treat.

But members of Shropshire Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee heard that funding to a service that helps smokers quit could see its budget slashed or taken away altogether.

Due to financial pressures, the council is looking at a £4m public health spending reduction.

This means the Help2Change prevention service could be at risk including a stop smoking service which costs £232,540 a year to run, but has an above-the-national-average success rate of 46 per cent.

Dr Kevin Lewis, director of Help2Change, told the meeting at Shirehall: “It has treated 2,836 clients in 2017/18, achieving a 46 per cent quit rate against the national target of 35 per cent.

“There are 39,000 smokers recorded on GP registers in Shropshire and smokers using Help2Quit are four times more likely to be successful than if they try to quit alone.”

Impact

Dr Lewis said every pregnant smoker in the county is automatically referred to the scheme. He said: “We have a higher than average rate of smoking mums-to-to-be.”

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“Smoking in pregnancy is the largest risk factor for poor birth outcomes, including stillbirth and learning difficulties.

“If H2Q stopped, there is an increased risk of poor birth outcomes with life-long impacts on health.”

Dr Lewis added that the service has a proven success rate, with two years of life being saved for every day that it operates.

“This is proven fact,” he said, “and shows how vital this service is.

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“On average smokers need social care nine years earlier than the rest of the population.

“The cost to adult social care of smoking-related incidents in Shropshire is estimated at £8.26m a year.

“We need to protect vital services.”

Members of the committee voted to write to the council’s cabinet, urging that they press for the service to be retained.

Councillor Madge Shineton, ward member for Cleobury Mortimer, said: “I can’t think of anything more disastrous than to stop something like this.”

By Local Democracy Reporter

Andrew Morris

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