Government asks mental health nurses about smoking cessation role

The survey is part of a project commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care to gain a better understanding of the smoking cessation tools available outside of hospital for people with a mental health condition.

“Mental health nurses can play a huge part in supporting people to give up smoking”

Dave Munday 

The findings will be used to identify ways that support can be improved in the community to help mentally unwell smokers kick the habit. The work is being led by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash).

It comes after research carried out by the charity in 2016 showed people with mental health conditions die on average 10-20 years earlier than the general population and smoking is the single largest factor accounting for this difference.

Around one third of adult tobacco consumption is by people with a current mental health condition, with smoking rates more than double that of the general population, according to the charity’s The Stolen Years report.

The survey is being supported by Unite the union’s Mental Health Nurses Association as part of its membership of the Mental Health and Smoking Partnership, which aims to address the disparity in smoking rates of people with a mental health condition.

Dave Munday, lead professional officer for mental health at Unite and a health visitor by background, said: “We know that mental health nurses can play a huge part in supporting people to give up smoking, and the survey aims to get a better understanding of what’s currently happening in the community.”

The new NHS Long Term Plan includes a section on smoking within the chapter on illness prevention and health inequalities. 

The document states that the NHS would make a “a significant new contribution to making England a smoke-free society”.

Mr Munday told Nursing Times that mental health nurses were in the “perfect position” to help support these but they needed to be given the time, resources and training to do so.

dave munday cropped

dave munday cropped

Dave Munday

Mental health nurses were currently under “increasing pressure to do more with less”, he noted.

“We know that mental health nurses work with a community of people that are more likely to smoke and need the support to be able to stop smoking and if that is a priority that the government wants us to have and the NHS nationally wants us to have,” he said.

“And certainly a priority that I feel that we should have, then one of the ways in meeting that priority is to skill up and to give the time to mental health nurses to be able to that work,” Mr Munday said.

  • The survey, which includes questions around interventions, prescribing, training and barriers, can be accessed via this link