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Smoking cessation activities by general practitioners and practice nurses
  1. Andy McEwen,
  2. Robert West
  1. St George's Hospital Medical School, Cranmer Terrace, London, UK
  1. Andy McEwen, Psychology Department, 6th Floor Hunter Wing, St George's Hospital Medical School, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE, UKamcewen{at}


OBJECTIVES To assess general practitioners' and practice nurses' self reported behaviour, attitudes, and knowledge in relation to smoking cessation.

DESIGN AND SETTING Two postal surveys of random national samples of 303 GPs (survey 1) and 459 practice nurses (survey 2) covering England and Wales; effective response rates were 75% and 96%, respectively.

RESULTS Survey 1 found that 96% of GPs accepted that intervening against smoking was part of their role and almost all (99%) said that they recorded smoking status when patients registered; 57% reported that they routinely updated their records on smoking status, 50% said they advised smokers to stop during most or all consultations, and 76% said they advised smokers to cut down if they cannot stop. A large majority (83%) said they either recommended or prescribed nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Although most GPs (86%) thought that NRTs were effective, only a minority thought they were worth the cost (47%) or should be on National Health Service (NHS) prescription (32%). There was little evidence that previous training in smoking cessation was associated with more activity, more positive attitudes, or greater knowledge. Survey 2 found that almost all practice nurses (99%) agreed that intervening against smoking was part of their role and 95% said they advised patients to stop at least occasionally; 71% said they advised smokers to stop at most or all consultations. A majority (74%) said that they recommended NRT to their patients. As with the GPs most practice nurses thought that nicotine replacement was effective (79%), but fewer (42%) thought the cost was justified, and only about half (53%) thought it should be available on NHS prescription. Nurses who said they had been trained in smoking cessation engaged in more activity relating to smoking cessation, had more positive attitudes, and were more knowledgeable.

CONCLUSION GPs and practice nurses accepted that intervening with smoking was an important part of their role and a large majority reported that they intervened at least with some smokers. This represents a promising baseline from which to proceed in terms of implementation of the new smoking cessation guidelines, but it is hoped that improvements can be made in terms of the frequency of updating records and intervening, and acceptance of the cost-effectiveness of NRT as a life preserving intervention.

  • cessation interventions
  • general practitioners
  • practice nurses

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