Face-to-face stop smoking services are being withdrawn from most people in Milton Keynes so the council can concentrate on helping smokers from disadvantaged groups.
Health officials say people are increasingly trying to give up alone by using e-cigarettes, without the need to see someone face-to-face, so they think now is the time to change a system that has been in place since the year 2000.
At a time when public health budgets are being cut back, Milton Keynes Council estimates that by introducing a telephone quit line with Central Beds Council and Bedford Council, it can save £44,000, and reduce the amount it spends on the service down to £398,000.
At present, local Stop Smoking Services are commissioned by public health and delivered face-to-face by GP surgeries and pharmacies across the borough. They receive a fee for doing this, and the plan is to reduce the amount of money they receive from the new system.
The standard service offer includes 12 weeks intensive behavioural support and an option of nicotine replacement therapies.
The council is going digital with a telephone quit line service that the majority of smokers can use at the same time as providing more help for people who are at greater ‘social disadvantage’.
From April 1 the telephone quit line will involve an eight-week programme consisting of six sessions and availability of 12 weeks of nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) as well as prescription only drugs.
A council report says there is no difference in the rate at which people from different social groups try to stop. The chances of success among people from disadvantaged groups is lower, it says.
Targeted face-to-face support will be available to smokers who are pregnant, under 18s and smokers with a mental health or long-term condition.
It will include 12 weeks of nine sessions and availability of 12 weeks of nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) as well as prescription only drugs.
It will also have an emphasis on discouraging young people from smoking; especially those who become addicted before they fully understand the health risks.
Despite many years of health initiatives some 13.3 per cent of adults in Milton Keynes still smoke, with one in three of them attempting to stop every year.
Cllr Hannah O’Neill, the Milton Keynes Cabinet member for health and wellbeing used power delegated to her at a meeting on Tuesday (Feb 12) to decide to go ahead with the changed service.