Support to help people in York quit smoking could be saved from planned cuts following a successful campaign by York’s Labour Councillors.
The cuts that the Tory and Lib Dem leaders of the council had planned could be reversed in order to prevent growing health inequalities between residents from different parts of the city.
The possibility of a reversal of cuts came about following a Labour council motion, approved unanimously by councillors, that required the council’s public health team to explore options for reducing the impact of the proposed cuts on health inequalities after local NHS bosses introduced a policy that some say would ‘ration’ surgery for smokers.
Given the higher rates of smoking among people living in more deprived areas, many argue that such policies will have a disproportionately damaging effect on the poorest communities in York, denying them treatment that is offered to others elsewhere in the UK.
And at last week’s cross-party Health Scrutiny Committee, councillors from all parties agreed to call on the council’s Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care to reverse previously agreed cuts to smoking cessation, in order to help those trying to quit and to limit the damage caused by the local NHS policy in terms of health inequalities.
Committee Member Cllr Stuart Barnes said:
'This is a very positive step forward following the passing of Labour’s motion last December. I hope the administration decides do the right thing and lessen the impact of rationing on existing health inequalities. Councillors of all parties recognised that there would be a widening of health inequalities if we insist on removing support for people to quit smoking. This is happening at the same time as the NHS in York, under ever more difficult financial pressures after years of austerity, is restricting access to surgery for smokers'.
Money allocated to controlling the use of tobacco is proven to save much more than that invested. Currently, smoking costs the NHS around £2bn per year, so money spent on reducing the prevalence of smoking reduces demand on the NHS.
The national charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) also reported recently that York is estimated to spend an additional £4.3 million every year on social care as a result of smoking. Of this, £2.38m a year is paid by the council with individuals also paying an estimated £1.98m to cover the cost of their own care. http://ash.org.uk/localtoolkit/cost-of-social-care/
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) puts the cost benefit of smoking cessation investment at 2.37:1, meaning well over double the amount is saved for every £1 invested.
Cllr Barnes added:
'The ball is now in the court of the Executive as to whether it will respond positively to this call. We’re hopeful now given it was a cross-party call and not just a Labour one, that the ruling Tory-Lib Dem Coalition will listen and act on the Health Scrutiny Committee’s resolution. It’s certainly possible if the will is there'.