●● WITH Dr Paul Bowen, a GP with McIlvride Medical Practice, Poynton, and executive chair of NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). THE vast majority of us now accept that quitting smoking is good for our physical health.
However, fewer people are aware that stopping smoking is hugely beneficial for our mental health too.
There is the mistaken belief among many smokers that smoking helps relieve stress and anxiety, when in fact the opposite is true, and smokers are actually more likely to develop depression or anxiety than non-smokers.
Moreover, the psychological benefits of stopping smoking are striking in people who already have a mental health disorder, as quitting can help mental health symptoms and lead to a reduced need for anti-psychotic medicine.
This is welcome news, as people with diagnosed mental health problems, including anxiety, depression or schizophrenia, are nearly three times more likely to take up smoking, and also tend to smoke more heavily than the general population.
Furthermore, it’s estimated that 30 per cent of all smokers have a mental health problem and that two of every five cigarettes smoked in England are smoked by people with a mental health condition.
This is why NHS Eastern Cheshire CCG has pledged to reduce the number of people with severe mental illness who are smokers by 30pc, as outlined in our new prospectus.
It can be viewed at easterncheshireccg.nhs. uk/Publications/ other-publications.htm.
We aim to achieve this ambitious target through close working with our GP member practices and our partners, including Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP) and Kickstart.
CWP provides mental health, learning disability and drug and alcohol services, with many of its services commissioned by the CCG, while Kickstart is a stop-smoking service commissioned by Cheshire East Council’s public health team.
As a CCG, we are currently gathering data from every GP practice in eastern Cheshire to identify how many people with a serious mental illness also consider themselves to be smokers.
This data will be provided to CWP, which can then support these patients to stop smoking through nicotine replacement therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, extra gym sessions and in-depth awareness sessions.
In addition, CWP was the first mental health trust in the country to go completely smoke free, providing high levels of support to people when they are in hospital.
CWP is also working with Kickstart to provide specialist stop-smoking support for people with mental health conditions, both in the community and in acute and rehabilitative care.
For more information, email karolina.ayers@ nhs.net.
●● Dr Paul Bowen