Stop smoking budget slashed

MARK NICHOLLS Health chiefs in Norfolk have slashed their stop smoking budget by almost a third as England prepares to go smoke-free. Norfolk Primary Care Trust's smoking cessation budget is down from £664,000 in 2006/07 to £450,000 for the current financial year.

MARK NICHOLLS

Health chiefs in Norfolk have slashed their stop smoking budget by almost a third as England prepares to go smoke-free.

Norfolk Primary Care Trust's smoking cessation budget is down from £664,000 in 2006/07 to £450,000 for the current financial year.

But it argues that it has now made its “Cignificant” service more efficient and has a strategy in place to help meet demand from an expected surge in the number of people who are planning to kick the habit as smoking in pubs, clubs, restaurant and other enclosed spaces is outlawed.

However, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said it was a staggering reduction in the budget and feared that it may widen “health inequalities”.

“Public health budgets have been cut across the country as trusts try to cut deficits but the size of this cut does send out a confused signal at this time. But I do believe that the smoking ban will help improve the health of people in Norfolk,” he said.

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Norfolk PCT is still battling to cut a deficit of more than £40m, though for the first time, it is now forecasting that it will be balancing its books by the end of the financial year.

Director of public health Dr John Battersby said that in recent months the trust stop smoking service, which only spent £512,000 of its £664,000 last year, had been developed.

He said: “The smoking cessation service has been significantly developed and works in a more efficient way. We have a comprehensive plan to cope with the expected rise in numbers of people who want to stop smoking.

“The number of 'Cignificant' specialist advisers across the Norfolk PCT area is 15, while there are four in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT area. Clinics are based in Norwich, Broadland, South Norfolk, West Norfolk and North Norfolk.”

Yesterday, ahead of the ban, one of the world's leading experts on the deadly effects of tobacco, Professor Sir Richard Peto, said half a million deaths are likely to be prevented by England going smoke-free.

He made the forecast based on the experience of the Republic of Ireland, which introduced a similar ban in March 2004. Irish cigarette sales have fallen by around 17pc since the ban took effect.

Elsewhere, campaigners for the right to smoke launched a High Court challenge over the government's smoking ban in enclosed public places while billionaire nightclub owner Dave West, who has hired Cherie Blair to challenge the smoking ban, said his London club and restaurant would allow people to smoke freely, and pay his customers' fines.

Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT say its smoking cessation budget has yet to be finalised for 2007-08. But last year £340,000 was spent.

Suffolk PCT says funding has increased for smoking cessation services.

Hilary Andrews, Suffolk PCT's Stop Smoking co-ordinator, said: “Suffolk PCT is committed to improving services to help smokers quit. We recognise the needs of smokers and are working to have services in place to help them put smoking behind them.”

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