Data gathered across the globe keep indicating that mental health patients are more likely to smoke than individuals who do not suffer from psychological or psychiatric conditions. Moreover, these individuals are more likely to find it harder to quit. To this effect, they benefit greatly from having extra support in relation to smoking cessation and access to safer alternatives, that would at least lessen the chances of them also suffering from smoke-related conditions.

Sadly, the ASH report has highlighted concerns reported by staff who felt they were ill-equipped to support their patients, with the charity adding that the current training of mental health nurses and psychiatrists to help their patients to quit smoking was “woefully inadequate”.

The report findings are based on the responses compiled from 427 mental health nurses and psychiatrists in adult community or inpatient settings in NHS organisations across England, via a survey completed in November 2019. Moreover, more responses were obtained via a series of focus groups carried out with mental health staff during November and December.

25% of mental health nurses do not adequately trained

Only 17% of mental health nurses and 13% of psychiatrists surveyed felt that their undergraduate training on links between smoking and mental health had been adequate.
Sadly, the compiled data indicated that only 17% of mental health nurses and 13% of psychiatrists surveyed felt that their undergraduate training on links between smoking and mental health had been adequate. While 25% of mental health nurses felt that their postgraduate training on smoking had been inadequate.

“A lack of training during education or within the workplace leaves staff ill-equipped to implement smoking cessation strategies,” said the report authors. Moreover, they added, as the government strives to achieve a smoke free nation by 2030, it risks leaving certain groups behind.

Similarly, a 2016 ASH report; The Stolen Years, which was endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing, had challenged health services to cut smoking rates amongst mental health patients to less than 5% by 2035, and an interim target of 35% by 2020.

The target rate for 2020 has been achieved

Meanwhile, a recent article by former stop-smoking service manager at Leicester City Council, Louise Ross, the third in a series of five, said that this target has been achieved. The article states that the target for 2020 has been achieved thanks to the following factors:

  • “A strong focus on the skills and training of the workforce;
  • Better access to medications that will help people to quit;
  • Improving understanding that e-cigarettes are substantially safer than smoking;
  • Moving to smoke-free mental health settings, while providing appropriate support for smokers.”

The role of nurses

The piece adds that nurses are in an especially good position to promote smoking cessation. Keeping in mind that studies have indicated that smokers respond well to intensive smoking cessation treatments that are tailor made for their needs, nurses who understand individual patients’ needs are ideally placed to give ongoing smoking cessation support.

Ross’s paper reflected on the nurses’ role in offering smoking cessation guidance and support, and pointed out amongst other things, that smokers on psychotropic drugs tend to need higher doses of nicotine.

“The tar (and not the nicotine) in tobacco smoke also increases the need for higher doses of some psychotropic medications, so stopping smoking enables some people to be prescribed a lower dose and experience fewer side-effects (NCSCT, 2018).”

Read Further: Nursing Times

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