Smokers who want help to quit from pharmacies and GPs in Sheffield now have to meet stricter guidelines to use services – leading to fears some residents are being ‘discriminated against’.
Previously anyone who needed support to stop smoking was eligible for help in the community, rather than travelling to the Quit Stop on Charles Street in the city centre.
But now Sheffield Council, which pays the NHS to run the city’s Stop Smoking Service, has drawn up new criteria for the community schemes, which it says will allow health workers to target resources more efficiently.
The ‘priority groups’ include under-18s, residents in deprived areas, ethnic minorities, mental health patients and people about to undergo hospital surgery.
A spokeswoman for Sheffield Council said face-to-face support is still available to all at the Quit Stop.
But one former smoker, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Star he thought the new rules were a ‘total disgrace’.
He said: “Several years ago I quit smoking through a community pharmacy – this was great as I did not need an appointment, and as I work long hours I could get face-to-face support when it suited me.
“I became passionate about helping others to stop smoking and got trained and started to provide the service through my place of work.”
He said he was ‘surprised’ by the new criteria.
“You now need to meet two of the criteria to get face-to-face stop smoking support through a pharmacy or other service provider. This is discriminatory and a total disgrace.”
The council spokeswoman said: “All smokers who want to quit can still get support via the Quit Shop.
“There is some targeted work focusing efforts so that particular priority groups that we know are at high risk can access services. But it is important to be completely clear that we are committed to working in partnership with the NHS to ensure that anyone in Sheffield can access stop smoking services.”