Stub out before surgery to save NHS cash

SMOKERS could save Suffolk's health system almost £500,000 if they kick the habit before undergoing surgery, it has emerged.Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) last night said those hooked on nicotine face longer stays in hospital because of slower healing and recovery rates following operations.

SMOKERS could save Suffolk's health system almost £500,000 if they kick the habit before undergoing surgery, it has emerged.

Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) last night said those hooked on nicotine face longer stays in hospital because of slower healing and recovery rates following operations.

And the trust claimed that, if people in Suffolk stopped smoking before surgery, it could save an estimated £479,516 by avoiding the costs of patients contracting infections and the danger of blood clots in the veins.

But national studies have shown that patients are not routinely informed of the risk of tobacco use or the potential benefit of giving up before surgery, both in terms of pre and post-operative health.


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So, in a bid to raise awareness of the issue, the PCT will be urging patients who smoke and are due for surgery to make a serious effort to quit at least six to eight weeks before their operation.

Dr Padmanabhan Badrinath, consultant in public health medicine at Suffolk PCT, said: “There is considerable evidence to show that non-smokers recover more quickly, they are less likely to have complications from the anesthetic and spend less time in the recovery room.

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“Nicotine in the blood makes the heart work harder and carbon monoxide, a harmful gas in cigarette smoke, stops red blood cells carrying oxygen to wound sites, which slows the healing process.

“There is no question of stopping people from having their operations or delaying them.

“It would give patients an opportunity to improve their health six to eight weeks before undergoing a surgical procedure that already has risks and would have an impact on their recovery.

“If they continue to stay off the cigarettes, it will have a massive impact on their long-term health, well-being, and quality of life and would save them money.”

In 2005/6, 22,330 people in Ipswich Hospital and 13,400 people in West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, had surgery, of which around 5,248 and 3,165 respectively were smokers.

If those smokers were offered help to quit before their operation, Suffolk PCT estimates that around 1,096 in Ipswich and around 661 in West Suffolk would be likely to give up prior to surgery.

Ipswich Hospital could save approximately £299,632 in a year while West Suffolk Hospital could save £180,153.

Patients who need elective surgery will first have their smoking status assessed, before being offered a range of support and advice to help them quit.

Hilary Andrews, Suffolk Stop Smoking Service coordinator, said: “The Stop Smoking Service team is excited about this new policy as this is a win/win situation benefiting both our patients and the health system.”

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable morbidity and premature death in England. In the eastern region alone 8,300 deaths a year are attributable to smoking - 23 deaths per day.

If you want help to quit smoking, call the Suffolk Stop Smoking Service on 0800 0856037.

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