Rotherham's free anti-smoking aids in danger

HEALTH bosses are planning to stub out free nicotine replacement products for smokers trying to quit.

NHS Rotherham will charge for items like patches, gum, mouth sprays and inhalators, under the new proposals.

It follows an article in the British Medical Journal earlier this year which suggested smokers are more likely to kick the habit if they pay for quit aids.

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But one health worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It was an unexpected bombshell.

“Staff at the Stop Smoking Service had felt positively about the future of the service having recently worked hard to reach targets.

“They were dismayed and now wonder how they can deliver a quality service without being able to offer products to deal with the withdrawal symptoms and cravings that quitters experience.

“Although behavioural support and counselling will still be on offer, patients will be told they have to buy their own nicotine replacement therapy products.

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“Given the recession and the fact that many Rotherham residents are on low incomes, they will struggle to afford products such as the popular Invisi Patch, on sale in Boots at nearly £16 for a one-week supply.”

Smokers who sign up are currently eligible for 12 weeks’ free NRT, in the form of vouchers which can be cashed at pharmacies.

Rotherham’s public health director Dr John Radford said: “We are proposing to withdraw the nicotine replacement scheme.

“The BMJ article was based on a large study of thousands of people. It showed that free NRT products did not help smokers to quit. It made no difference.

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“It pointed out that people are more motivated if they are paying for the treatment.

“If the scheme does stop, people who receive free prescriptions will still be able to get free products through their GP.”

The Rotherham Stop Smoking Team, based on Bridgegate, also offers one-to-one support, drop-ins, groups and telephone support.

Sessions run in venues all over Rotherham during the day, in the evening and on Saturdays. Call 01709 422444 for more information.

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A decision on ending the free scheme is expected next month.

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