UK National Smoking Cessation Conference - UKNSCC
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Setting the scene
Gay Sutherland

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This is an exciting time for smoking cessation within the UK as services continue to become fully integrated within the NHS. It is perhaps worth reflecting on some of the major achievements within the smoking cessation field over the past few years, and some of the challenges which it has had to face. In fact it is worth reminding ourselves that up until 1999 there were no NHS service and that we still remain the only country in the world to have a comprehensive national smoking cessation service.

The publication of Smoking Kills in 1998 signalled the government's intention to take the issue of smoking seriously and to make real efforts to reduce health inequalities. The White Paper set targets for reducing smoking rates and the measures described included provision of NHS smoking cessation services. Also in 1988, Thorax published evidence-based guidelines on smoking cessation activities for health professionals and these guidelines were endorsed by many professional bodies. The first smoking cessation treatment services were established in Health Action Zones in 1999 and a year later NHS smoking cessation treatment services were established nationally.

In 1999 smokers on low incomes were eligible for one week's free supply of NRT and nicotine gum became available for general sale. In April 2000 a national voucher system for NRT was a popular introduction; while the setting of targets for services was less well received. Later in 2000 the voucher system was extended to allow up to 4 to 6 weeks supply of NRT and bupropion became available on NHS prescription.
In December 2000 updated national smoking cessation guidelines were published in Thorax. NRT joined Zyban on NHS prescription in April 2001 but funding for these medications now had to come from the NHS drugs budget; in May further NRT products became available on general sale. At the same time the distinction between specialist and intermediate services was abandoned and new minimum standards for smoking cessation services were introduced. April 2002 saw one extra year of central funding provided and a year later this was reduced to a suggested, but not obligatory, minimum funding level. Primary Care Trusts became responsible for commissioning and funding services in 2003 and the HDA Training Standard for smoking cessation was published.

Of course the most significant development is in the number of people who have received treatment from NHS smoking cessation services and who have been helped to stop smoking by them. Since the service came in to operation in 1999 up to 2003 over 600,000 smokers had set a quit date with the services and over half of these, 314,000, were not smoking four weeks after their quit date. The treatment NHS smoking cessation services provide is a life saving one, and its staff are its greatest resource. This conference aims to assist the professional development of the smoking cessation field and to provide a forum for practitioners to share their best practice, wealth of experience and innovative ideas. I am delighted to open the 1st UK National Smoking Cessation Conference and am confident that it will be an enjoyable and stimulating two days.


Currently a Research Psychologist at the Tobacco Research Unit, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London University and Hon. Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust Smoking Cessation Clinic. Gay has been involved in treating and researching tobacco dependence for 18 years.

Research interests include trials of the nicotine nasal spray, patch, inhaler and the sublingual tablet, and investigations of the potential of naltrexone, mecamylamine and combined nicotine replacement therapy for smokers. She has examined the potential of reducing the harm for smokers unable or unwilling to quit, through studies of new cigarettes prototypes, such as Premier and Eclipse. Recent research interests have included collaborative studies trying to identify genes related to smoking and investigations of the roles of smoking and quitting on oral health and immune function. She is a Trustee of the charity QUIT, and President-Elect of The Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco - Europe.

Gay Sutherland
Maudsley Hospital Smoking Cessation Clinic