Mental health Trusts join forces to go smoke-free

We have been working on a joint nicotine management and stop smoking programme with north-east based mental health Trust, Northumberland Tyne and Wear (NTW) NHS Foundation Trust, since early 2015. As a result, from 9 March, National No Smoking Day, service users, staff and visitors, across both Trusts will no longer be able to smoke tobacco products within any of our sites. 

We have made the decision because we want to improve the health and life expectancy of our service users. On average people with a serious mental illness die 15-20 years earlier than the rest of the population and smoking is responsible for over half of this difference. By reducing smoking levels we hope to see a positive improvement in service user’s overall health. 

Commenting on the programme of work Dr Nick Land, TEWV’s medical director said “People have a perception that smoking actually helps with illnesses such as anxiety and depression. However stopping smoking can actually reduce depression, anxiety and stress, improving people’s mood and overall quality of life. In some cases where people have a mental health illness it might actually mean that their medication levels could reduce, and therefore be more effective, meaning they could see further improvements in their recovery.” 

Dr Damian Robinson, NTW’s group medical director added “We appreciate the move is a big change and will take getting used to. It is the nicotine in cigarettes that people are addicted to. We won’t be depriving service users of nicotine, but will be supporting them to access cleaner forms of therapeutic nicotine. We want to protect their health by helping them go smoke-free and therefore improving their overall wellbeing and quality of life.” 

We have worked carefully to put measures in place to support current inpatients, as well as anyone admitted to both Trusts in the future. Patient information literature has been created to inform service users, carers and families of what to expect and our staff have undergone training in order to support, advise and carry out assessments to provide a range of nicotine replacement options. Support to stop smoking will also be available, not only for service users, but for staff working for both TEWV and NTW. 

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England said:“One of our biggest challenges in getting smoking rates down is to make sure people with mental health problems don’t get left behind. Smoking rates among this group are unacceptably high with an estimated one in three cigarettes smoked by someone with a mental health problem. 

“Mental health trusts have a key leadership role in improving the physical health of their patients. Becoming smoke free provides an excellent opportunity to help improve health during inpatient stays and demonstrates our ambition to address the inequality experienced by people living with mental health problems. We very much welcome this positive step being taken, which will help tackle the major health inequalities people with mental health problems experience’’.

 To find out more visit our smoke-free pages on our website.