How More Smokers Plague The NHS As Admissions Increase

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Cuts to NHS stop-smoking services have been well reported, so it is dismaying to see that as thousands of smokers are being let down due to a lack of support, smoking-related hospital admissions are rising.

Smoking costs the economy around £11bn a year and the NHS around £2bn a year, and is a wholly preventable cause of illness and death. It is the biggest cause of preventable cancer in the UK.

New data released by NHS Digital on July 2nd 2019 showed that despite smoking rates decreasing, there have been more smoking-related hospital admissions in the past few years.

While the decrease in smoking rates is encouraging, the decrease in smoking support prescriptions, (vastly exceeding the decrease in the size of the smoking population), shows that many smokers are not receiving the support they need to quit.

The NHS Digital data forms an extensive report which is split into six parts. We have taken the data from the ‘smoking prevalence’ and ‘hospital admissions’ sections to create our own graphics, both UK-wide and looking at each individual region, showing which areas are most affected. We can then dig a little deeper into the demographics of those worst affected by gender and age.

Smoking Prevalence

Let’s take a look at our interactive graph of the UK below. The data shows that although smoking rates are decreasing, the England average is 14.4% which is still above the current national ambition of 12% or less.

In general, there is a north/south divide, with the darker shades of the higher smoking rates in the north of England and the paler colours of the lower smoking rates in the south.

The highest smoking prevalence is in Kingston upon Hull in the north at 26.1%, followed by Barking and Dagenham (22.4%), Slough (21.3%), North East Lincolnshire (21.2%) and Blackpool (21.1%).

The region with the lowest smoking prevalence is Ealing in the south at 9.2%. Following Ealing are Cheshire East (8.7%), Windsor and Maidenhead (8.4%), Wokingham (8.2%) and Richmond upon Thames (5.9%).

There is also a gender split with more men (16.4%) smoking than women (12.6%). This may be because female smokers have an added incentive to give up when they are pregnant.

The UK data also shows that adults aged 25 to 34 were most likely to smoke (19%) with adults aged 65 and over the least likely (8%), possibly due to the over-65s receiving help from a GP or stop smoking services to quit due to the onset of physical smoking-related symptoms later in life.

Hospital admissions chart

Regional Maps For Smoking Prevalence

Take a look at our interactive maps of each region. These maps instantly pinpoint where more needs to be done locally to help smokers to quit. If the help is not available, those who want to quit are being let down. Who could put a price on this support if it can help a loved one successfully quit smoking for good?

 

East Midlands

The East Midlands has the sixth highest smoking prevalence in England. The recent NHS data is revealing and shows that local authorities need to prioritise stop smoking support. It clearly shows that the district with the lowest smoking prevalence in the East Midlands is Rutland (13.2%) and is below the average for England. The worst offending district in this region is Nottingham at 20.6%.

Yorkshire & Humber

Shamefully, Yorkshire and Humber has the highest smoking prevalence in England. The NHS data reveals that the district with the lowest smoking prevalence in Yorkshire and Humber is the city of York (11.5%) and worst offending district in this region is Kingston upon Hull with a shocking 26.1%, well above the average in England which is 14.45%.

South East

The South East boasts the lowest smoking prevalence in England. However, even in a region which is positively fighting the battle to quit smoking for good, the new NHS data instantly pinpoints the areas letting the region down. These areas need a targeted approach from health services. The district with the lowest smoking prevalence within the South East is Wokingham (8.24%) and worst offending district in this region is Slough which visually stands out against surrounding areas on the interactive map.

East of England

The new NHS data shows that the East of England has the sixth highest smoking prevalence in England. The district with the lowest smoking prevalence in the East of England is Hertfordshire (12.03%), sitting below the England average (14.45%). The data shows that the worst offending district in this region is Peterborough.

North West

The North West has the fourth highest smoking prevalence in England. The NHS data shows that the area with the lowest smoking prevalence in the North West is Cheshire East (8.7%) and worst offending area in this region is Blackpool (21.1%).

South West

The new NHS data shows that South West is the area with the second lowest smoking prevalence in the country along with London. The district with the lowest smoking prevalence in the South West is South Gloucestershire (10.6%) and worst offending district in this region is Swindon, which despite its proximity to South Gloucestershire has a much higher smoking prevalence at 17.7%.

London

London is the area with the second lowest smoking prevalence in the country, joint with the South West. However, the new data shows that the differences in local London areas is shocking. The NHS data clearly shows that there needs to be a targeted approach to stop smoking services and local councils need to have allocated funds. The area with the lowest smoking prevalence within London is Richmond upon Thames at just 5.9%. The worst offending area is Barking and Dagenham at a whopping 22.4% – standing out on the interactive map in dark blue.

North East

Sadly the North East has the second highest smoking prevalence in England. The district with the lowest smoking prevalence in the North East is Northumberland, making a large area of the region look good at (12.1%). However, the data shows that the worst offending district in this region is Sunderland at 20.2%, bringing down the North East average (16%) and making the North East the second biggest offender on the leaderboard.

Hospital Admissions

Let’s take a look at our interactive graph of the UK below. The new data shows that in 2017/18 there were estimated to be 489,300 hospital admissions attributable to smoking. This is up from 484,700 in 2016/17 (an increase of 1%), and from 440,400 in 2007/08 (an increase of 11%).

Hospital admissions for smoking-related illness can be prevented, so it is sad to see that a whopping 22% of all admissions for respiratory diseases, 15% of all admissions for circulatory diseases, and 9% of all admissions for cancers are smoking-related.

In general, the NHS data shows that there is a north/south divide, with the darker shades of the higher number of hospital admissions in the north of England and the paler colours of the lower number in the south. Blackpool has the highest hospital admissions in the country (2990 per 100,000) and Wokingham has the lowest (721 per 100,000). The England average is 1,530 smoking-related hospital admissions per every 100,000.

The new data also shows an interesting gender split, with men taking a much higher number of smoking-related hospital admissions (30%) compared to women (22%).

Regional maps for hospital admissions

Take a look at our interactive maps below to immediately pinpoint where the NHS are most burdened by smoking-related hospital admissions, and which areas urgently need to provide more support for smokers who want to quit.

London

The new NHS data shows that London has the second lowest number of smoking-related hospital admissions in England with 1,370 per 100,000. The area of London with the lowest number of hospital admissions is Redbridge (913 per 100,000). The area of London which is creating the biggest strain on the NHS is Islington at 2143 smoking-related admissions per 100,000 – well above the London average of 1,370 admissions per 100,000 and the England average of 1,530 admissions per 100,000.

Yorkshire & Humber

The new NHS data shows that Yorkshire and Humber has the second highest number of smoking-related hospital admissions in England with 1,823 per 100,000. The area within the Yorkshire and Humber region with the lowest number of hospital admissions is North Yorkshire (1,388 per 100,000). The area of Yorkshire and Humber which is creating the biggest strain on the NHS is Kingston upon Hull, which also has the highest prevalence of smokers, at 2,767 smoking-related admissions per 100,000 – well above the England average of 1,530 admissions per 100,000.

East Midlands

The East Midlands has the fourth highest number of smoking-related hospital admissions in England with 1,584 per 100,000 according to the latest NHS data. The area within the East Midlands with the lowest number of hospital admissions is Rutland (877 per 100,000). The area of the East Midlands which is creating the biggest strain on the NHS is Nottingham, which also has the highest prevalence of smokers, at 2,319 smoking-related admissions per 100,000 – well above the England average of 1,530 admissions per 100,000.

West Midlands

The West Midlands has the fifth highest number of smoking-related hospital admissions in England with 1,570 per 100,000. The area within the West Midlands with the lowest number of hospital admissions is Warwickshire (1,201 per 100,000). The area in the West Midlands which is creating the biggest strain on the NHS is Stoke-on-Trent at 1,542 smoking-related admissions per 100,000 – well above the England average of 1,530 admissions per 100,000.

South West

The NHS data shows that the South West has the second highest number of smoking-related hospital admissions in England with 1,409 per 100,000. The area within the South West with the lowest number of hospital admissions is Bath and North East Somerset (1,075 per 100,000). The area of the South West which is creating the biggest strain on the NHS is Bournemouth, with 2,037 smoking-related admissions per 100,000 – well above the England average of 1,530 admissions per 100,000.

North East

The new data shows that the North East has the highest number of smoking-related hospital admissions in England with 2,221 per 100,000. The new NHS data also shows that the area within the North East region with the lowest number of hospital admissions is Darlington (1,591 per 100,000). The area of the North East which is creating the biggest strain on the NHS is Sunderland at 2,914 smoking-related admissions per 100,000 – well above the England average of 1,530 admissions per 100,000.

South East

Looking at the new NHS data, the South East has the lowest number of smoking-related hospital admissions in England with 1,149 per 100,000. The area within the South East with the lowest number of hospital admissions is Wokingham (721 per 100,000). The area of South East which is bringing the average for the region down is Southampton at 1,676 smoking-related admissions per 100,000 – above the England average of 1,530 admissions per 100,000.

North West

The NHS data shows that North West has the third highest number of smoking-related hospital admissions in England with 1,749 per 100,000. The area within the North West region with the lowest number of hospital admissions is Warrington with 1,208 per 100,000. The area in the North which is creating the biggest strain on the NHS is Blackpool with a huge 2,990 per 100,000 – the highest number in the country.

East of England

The latest NHS data shows that the East of England has the seventh highest number of smoking-related hospital admissions in England with 1,500 per 100,000. The area within this region with the lowest number of hospital admissions is Central Bedfordshire (1,323 per 100,000). The area in the East of England which is creating the biggest strain on the NHS is Thurrock with 1,926 smoking-related admissions per 100,000 – well above the England average of 1,530 admissions per 100,000.

Smoke And Mirrors

There may be fewer smokers in the UK than ever before, but looking at these recent figures from the NHS, it looks like the country’s steady progress might be in jeopardy due to lack of funding. The decrease in smokers shouldn’t obscure the fact that there has been an increase in smoking-related hospital admissions.

Should E-cigarettes Be Used More Extensively By The NHS?

The NHS Digital statistics show that 14.4% of adults in England smoke, down from 19% eight years ago. This equates to a drop of around 1.8 million smokers in the adult population since 2011. One reason for the drop is that vaping has become more popular, with the NHS reporting that ‘an estimated 2.9 million adults in Great Britain currently use e-cigarettes and of these, 1.5 million people have completely stopped smoking cigarettes.’

Although smoking rates have been decreasing, 78,000 people still die due to smoking each year and 9 million adults still smoke in Great Britain.

Over recent years there have been advertising strategies to prevent smoking (particularly amongst children). However, more needs to be done to help the large number of people already addicted to smoking and who want to quit. This is the only way to lower smoking-related hospital admissions and prevent cancers caused by smoking.

A Perfect Storm

In reality, the reverse is happening. 59% of councils – three in five – have been forced to cut their budgets for stop smoking services, up from 39% in 2015/16.

Yet evidence shows that stop smoking services are the most effective way for smokers to quit. But with prescriptions for stop smoking aids down and local councils struggling to fund vital stop smoking services there is already a crisis.

The amount of money that is being given to councils for public health is continually being reduced, with more cuts to come in 2020. Local councils aren’t required to provide stop smoking services like they are sexual health clinics, for example, so these are the clinics that are cut. Funding for mass media stop smoking campaigns has also been reduced.

Additionally, as a result of uncertain political times, Theresa May’s ‘sin taxes’ on the tobacco industry look like they won’t ever happen. Even the planned increase in age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21 has been dropped.

How Can We Help The Burden On The NHS?

E-cigarettes are now the biggest smoking cessation tool. E-cigarettes are promoted by the NHS, the UK government and government agency Public Health England (PHE) for successfully helping to stop smokers quit for good.

The NHS encourages smokers to make the swap to e-cigarettes through their stop-smoking publicity, but a more active support is needed.

Stop-smoking services could team up with suppliers to offer discount codes or vouchers for an initial purchase. This gives the quitter the ability to find a device that suits their smoking habits, and a huge range of e-liquids. The retailer will also be able to provide information on how to make the switch successful, and provide technical support should the customer need it.

This new data from the NHS points to the need to embrace e-cigarettes further, not just through talking about it and promotion – but through action.

 

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