The challenge

  • Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK
  • Every year around 78,000 people in the UK die from smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related illnesses
  • Smoking increases the risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions
  • Some may be fatal, and others can cause irreversible long-term damage to a person’s health (
  • Smoking during pregnancy can put the unborn baby’s health at risk, as well as the mother’s health
  • Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of complications such as:
    • miscarriage
    • premature (early) birth
    • a low birth weight baby
    • stillbirth
  • While smoking rates have slowly been reducing, 1 in 5 people still smoke in the UK. Providing effective smoking cessation support is, therefore, an important part of any healthcare service, in order to help smokers reduce their risk of poor health and premature death

What is the Smoking Status service?

In order to target those who would benefit from Health Call’s Smoking Cessation service, smoking status first needs to be determined.

Using Health Call’s Smoking Status service, citizens can be contacted via either SMS, automated telephone call, online or app and are asked if they are a smoker, non-smoker or used to smoke.

Depending on the response, the citizen is sent advice to stop smoking or a thank you message. A read code is generated and the patient’s smoking status is updated in the citizen’s GP record.

The service enables GPs to keep an up-to-date list of smokers and direct them to the most appropriate stop smoking support.

What does the smoking cessation service do?

The Smoking Cessation service assists patients in quitting smoking by acting like a behavioural nudge service to help citizens stop smoking. Studies show that motivation to quit smoking is an important factor in attempting to quit.

Essentially, this is a form of ‘self-help’, whereby support to the patient is delivered by type of media rather than a person, in this case, text message, web-based support or smartphone app. Smartphone apps provide regular messages of advice, encouragement and information orientated around a quit date, which are sent to patients’ mobile phones. Responses submitted by patients can be submitted to the patient record, allowing healthcare staff to intervene or provide additional support as appropriate.

What the benefits of the smoking cessation service?

  • Such use of self-help by smokers who would otherwise not access any support increases their chances of quitting six months later by about 45%
  • This translates into a 2% absolute increase in quitting (from 5% of smokers who do not receive self-help to 7% who do receive self-help) and is much more cost-effective than very intensive support, such as pharmacotherapy plus cessation counselling

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