Trusts are being urged to do more to follow national guidance and help patients quit smoking while they are in hospital, in the wake of new research on its efficacy.
The call, from the British Thoracic Society, follows a study that suggests smoking rates could be cut and money saved by routinely offering a million hospital patients a year the help they need to give up their tobacco habits.
Last year, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence issued guidance recommending that all smokers using secondary care services should be offered help to quit.
“The NHS is missing regular opportunities to transform their lives through simple yet highly cost-effective measures to help them stop smoking”
British Thoracic Society
New research, published online in the journal Thorax, was carried out by experts from the University of Nottingham-based UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, and the Institute for Lung Health.
Around 460,000 people in England are admitted to NHS hospitals because of smoking each year and the treatment of smoking-related diseases costs the NHS over £5bn annually, accounting for around 5% of its budget.
But it is not known what proportion of inpatients is accounted for by smokers, something the researchers sought to find out.
They estimated that a sixth of all those admitted to NHS hospitals in England are smokers, with 1.1 million of them admitted in 2010-11.
The researchers said it meant that offering intensive support routinely to hospital patients could help more than a million people each year. And that, they said, could help prevent hundreds of thousands of early deaths and save the NHS money millions of pounds.
The study authors added that even more people could be helped by also offering the help to hospital outpatients.
In response, a spokesman for the British Thoracic Society said: “Smokers who are admitted to hospital include some of the poorest members of our society.
“This study shows that the NHS is missing regular opportunities to transform their lives through simple yet highly cost-effective measures to help them stop smoking,” he said.
“The health services regulators – the Care Quality Commission and Monitor – need to hold hospital chief executives to account and stop them ignoring the NICE recommendations to help people admitted to hospital to quit smoking,” he added.