A GROUND-BREAKING stop smoking programme - which Barnsley medics believe has the potential to save up to 2,000 lives and 4,000 hospital admissions a year - has been launched.

The scheme - QUIT - is being delivered by South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System (SYB ICS) in partnership with Cancer Research and Barnsley Council.

Rather than seeing smoking as a lifestyle choice, hospitals in eight NHS trusts - including Barnsley Hospital - will now offer smokers treatment for their tobacco addiction as part of their routine care.

Every patient over the age of 12 who smokes will now have access to nicotine replacement treatments and specialist stop smoking support during their hospital stay.

Community-based stop smoking services will play a key role, ensuring medication and support is continued after patients leave hospital to give them the best chance of beating their tobacco addiction.

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In Barnsley 18.3 per cent of adults are smokers, well above the national average of 13.9 per cent.

Dr Richard Jenkins, chief executive of Barnsley Hospital, said: “We know that smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable death, disability and illness so the QUIT initiative makes perfect sense - especially when it is our job as health professionals to reduce harm to health.

“We spend over £26m a year on smoking-related hospital admissions in the region and QUIT has the potential to save thousands of lives and hospital admissions here.

“By treating tobacco addiction, we will save lives, decrease inequalities in health and save the NHS money that can be reinvested in new services.”

It is hoped the approach to actively treating tobacco addiction will help bring smoking rates down to below ten per cent by 2024.

Barnsley’s rate of successful quitters - based on Public Health England (PHE) population data - last year was 2,126 per 100,000 smokers.

This is higher than 2017’s rate of 1,863 per 100,000 smokers, but significantly lower than 2019’s 2,718.

Barnsley Council has pledged to ‘make smoking invisible’ as part of its Breathe 2025 campaign to create a smoke-free borough - starting in areas such as parks, around schools and in the town centre.

Coun Jim Andrews, cabinet spokesperson for public health, said: “Covid-19 had a huge impact on people accessing many services in 2020, which included the stop smoking service.

“This means our rates are lower than in previous years.

“Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, comparing figures for 2020 to those from previous years does not fairly reflect the excellent work of the service, who continued to offer support to smokers throughout the pandemic and the periods of lockdown.

“We are committed to helping the service recover by building capacity to increase access for those who want or need it.”