Funds to tackle smoking being cut back by council

Blackpool Council is to stub out GP payments for smoking referrals
Blackpool Council is to stub out GP payments for smoking referrals
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Blackpool Council is to stop paying GPs for referring patients to services which help them quit smoking.

Cabinet member for health Coun Amy Cross told the authority’s Health Scrutiny Committee she thought the policy was “very inappropriate.”

She was responding to concerns that recently reduced smoking rates in the town could be jeopardised when Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group cuts its share of funding for the arrangement.

But Coun Cross said the contracts days were numbered.

She said: “I think doctors should be referring their patients, because that’s what they’re supposed to do.

“We’ve had conversations with GPs and when that contract comes to an end in the next few months, we will not be continuing with it.”

Not renewing the contract when it finishes at the end of March will save the council’s public health service £20,000 a year.

Committee member and Labour councillor David Owen, who raised the subject, said the smoking cessation programme had been successful, but warned that GPs should not need an incentive to help their patients kick the habit.

He added: “Lads aren’t taking up smoking. The sad thing is, it’s the girls that are doing it now.

“We do have a real problem with young mothers, you see them all the time pushing buggies and their child is getting all the smoke in its face.”

Figures presented to the committee show a decline in the number of Blackpool mothers who are smokers at the birth of their child.

In 2013-14, the smoking rate amongst new mums was 30.8 per cent, but that had fallen to 27.1 per cent by 2015-16.

Among the general population in the town, smoking has also been reducing.

Rates fell from 29.5 per cent to 26.9 per cent between 2013-14 and 2015-16.

Health chiefs said changes had been made to the way people are urged to give up smoking.

Dr Amanda Doyle, a Blackpool GP and Chief Clinical Officer at NHS Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “There have been recent changes to the way in which stop smoking services are provided and funded.

“This has included a change to the way in which GP practices are funded for identifying people at high risk of developing smoking related diseases such as COPD (lung disease).

“There have also been changes to how GPs receive funding for recording the necessary data which help the council to commission effective public health services.

“GPs do not receive any funding for offering smoking cessation support and advice to their patients.”

The payments to GPs started around 2013.

The council inherited a number of different contracts when it took over responsibility for public health as part of a government shake up of services.