The biggest stop-smoking drive ever mounted in Greater Glasgow will be launched NHS Greater Glasgow in April to help smokers beat an addiction which costs the lives of 1 in 5 Glaswegians. It'll be cheaper and easier for smokers to get Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) - which doubles the chances of successfully giving up - and the other practical help they need to quit the habit. Under the new measures, smokers will be able - for the first time - to get free or low-cost NRT patches from a total of 92 pharmacies in key locations in Greater Glasgow plus access to a new areawide network of self-help smoking cessation groups. From the beginning of April, smokers can go to any one of the 92 listed pharmacies for NRT patches plus advice on how to quit - without having to go to a doctor or nurse for NHS prescriptions. But the maximum smokers will pay will be three NHS prescription charges totalling £18.60 - or even get them free if they're eligible for free NHS prescriptions . And that means treatment which can make a massive difference to their chances of giving up will become much easier to get hold of…and more affordable. The new scheme will double the number of pharmacies in Greater Glasgow taking part in the current "direct supply" programme, which can allow smokers to obtain NRT from a pharmacy, free of charge, without seeing their family doctor first. Under the scheme, customers are assessed for suitability for NRT and given one week's supply, if appropriate. This is followed up by weekly attendances at the pharmacy for further supplies, where they also receive a "how to quit" booklet and personal advice from a trained smoking cessation adviser for a maximum of 12 weeks. Colin Fergusson, a pharmacist in Balornock who is taking part in the scheme, has welcomed the innovation, saying:
"Not only does this make giving up smoking more accessible and affordable for people, it underlines the important role of the pharmacy in the community. What we're offering is much more than a place to pick up NRT patches - it is about providing one-to-one counselling and support to smokers while they are stopping."
Meanwhile, local intensive smoking cessation groups for heavily addicted smokers wanting to stop are being set up across most of the Greater Glasgow area for the first time. Fifteen of Greater Glasgow's Local Health Care Co-operatives (LHCCs) - local alliances of frontline health professionals including GPs, community nurses and clinics will be establishing smoking cessation groups featuring expert guidance from health professionals, provided they can recruit at least 15 members to each group. The target group is the more mature smoker who has unsuccessfully tried at least once before to quit. Smokers can join the groups by themselves or via a GP referral. Under this project, smokers will sign up for a 6 week quitting programme at a local venue where they will get help in choosing the best Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) for them - patches, chewing gum, lozenges or nasal spray. In the Week 2 session, members will quit together. Key features of the programme will include weekly sessions where smoking quitters can measure their progress in decreasing levels of harmful carbon monoxide in their blood . And they can swap information on how they're doing each week as well as tips and advice on how to get through the difficult early stages. This latest campaign comes as final preparations get underway to ask public agencies and community groups for their views on what local initiatives would work best to help people give up smoking. Glasgow Alliance - which brings together the public, private, voluntary and community sectors in Glasgow including NHS Greater Glasgow, to change the city for the better - is preparing a 10 year Strategy and Action Plan to achieve long term and co-ordinated action on tobacco. Evelyn Borland, Acting Director of Health Promotion for Greater Glasgow NHS Board, said:
"Smoking is the biggest single preventable cause of premature death in Glasgow and half of all lifelong smokers will die prematurely. "Nearly 38% of the population in this NHS area are smokers and we know that giving up smoking can be very difficult. "NRT has been one of the major factors in the battle to help smokers quit and many of who have already attended intensive support groups are delighted with the result. "Last year well over 350 people in this area managed to give up with the aid of intensive group support - the combination of an effective drug therapy and the moral support of others in the same position made all the difference to their efforts.. "That's why we are expanding our frontline services - and we want more people to take advantage of what's on offer to help them achieve their goal. "It's never too late to stop and many people do succeed eventually even if they have failed previous attempts. "This new expansion of our smoking cessation services means there hasn't been a better time for smokers who wish to give up - so give it a go!"
For further information on any aspect of giving up smoking including how to join your nearest intensive smoking cessation group, please contact Smoking Concerns on 0141 201 9825 (office hours ). Smoking Concerns is NHS Greater Glasgow's specialist tobacco project.