Targeted support to help people with severe mental illness stop smoking can double quit rates at six months compared to standard care, research with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) has revealed.
CPFT took part in national study SCIMITAR+, the largest ever trial to help people using mental health services stop smoking, led by the University of York’s Mental Health and Addiction Research Group.
Smoking rates among people with mental health conditions are among the highest of any group for the last 20 years, while other smokers have quit. Results show that with the right support, this inequality could be a thing of the past.
Mental health nurses were trained to deliver evidence-based behavioural support to smokers with mental illness in their own homes, alongside providing access to Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) and medications. The researchers found that people who received this support were more than twice as likely to have quit smoking six months following the intervention, than people who received standard care.
The NHS Long Term Plan published in January commits to developing a dedicated pathway of support to help long-term users of mental health services quit smoking. The Mental Health and Smoking Partnership recommends that the learning from this study is incorporated into routine practice nationally.
This study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment Programme (project number 11/136/52); Simon Gilbody was funded by the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care Yorkshire and Humber.
Community psychiatric nurse Julia Ferris ran the study for CPFT and said:
“Thank you to everyone who took part and contributed to this national research to improve care and health outcomes. We worked with 23 people in the local community to test this targeted approach and learn how to improve support for smokers with mental illness.”
Professor Simon Gilbody, lead researcher from the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences and Hull York Medical School, said:
“People with mental health conditions die on average 10 – 20 years earlier than the general population, and smoking is the single largest factor in this shocking difference.
"Our results show that smokers with severe mental illness can successfully quit when given the right support. We hope our findings will mean that this specialist support is available to everyone who might benefit.”
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Professor Tim Kendall, National Clinical Director for Mental Health at NHS England, said:
“This exciting new research will help inform our work to implement the NHS Long Term Plan and deliver the best possible support for smokers with mental health conditions to quit.
"Narrowing the gap in life expectancy experienced by people with mental health conditions must be a priority for everyone working in the NHS and helping smokers to quit is a key route to achieving this.”
Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London and co-chair of the Mental Health and Smoking Partnership, said:
“The Mental Health and Smoking Partnership welcome the findings from this study. Smokers with severe mental illness have been ignored for far too long – and it is fantastic to see that changing.
"We hope that NHS England will take these findings into account when implementing the ambition of the NHS Long Term Plan. Most smokers with a mental health condition live in the community, meaning community and primary care services also need to step-up the support they’re providing if we’re to narrow the gap in life expectancy. SCIMITAR shows how this can be done effectively.”
Full journal article on the study is available here