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    PCT funding cuts to hit GP smoking cessation services.

    GPs face losing effective smoking cessation resources just when they need them most, because cash-strapped PCTs are running down services. The warning comes from the architect of the NHS's smoking cessation service Prof Robert West, director of Tobacco Studies at Cancer Research UK. A rise in demand for smoking cessation services is predicted ahead of England's public smoking ban, which comes into force next July. Prof West, who co-authored the blueprint for NHS Stop Smoking Services, said: 'It's a scandal that PCTs are disinvesting in perhaps the most inexpensive treatment at their disposal for saving lives.' The Government announced England's public smoking ban this month, prompting calls to make extra capacity in the NHS to cope with the expected rise in demand. A review published last week showed the number of Scottish people accessing cessation services almost doubled in the three months before the introduction of the ban there on 26 March. But some English smoking cessation service managers have seen PCTs slash budgets by half. West Sussex PCT - with a debt of almost [pounds sterling]5m - has axed all its dedicated smoking cessation posts. Northamptonshire PCT, with a [pounds sterling]45m debt, has banned GPs from prescribing nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and this week added the new smoking cessation drug varenicline to the blacklist. Prof West said: 'One PCT froze three posts the day before interviews were to take place, while another service was doing so well in recruiting patients that it found its NRT budget capped.' Birmingham GP Dr Paul Aveyard, honorary consultant in public health at Solihull PCT, said: 'We're preparing for an expected rise in demand, but we're hearing of [other areas] where PCTs are cutting services.' South London GP Dr Alex Bobak, a smoking cessation specialist, said: 'We were told funding would be ring-fenced. It's disgraceful that patients are being denied one of the most cost-effective interventions known.' A Northamptonshire PCT spokesman said the ban on smoking cessation aids was 'regrettable' but necessary. A spokeswoman for West Sussex PCT said the trust was still committed to helping people stop smoking

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    There is an increasing demand for smoking cessation services however; GPs have a shortage of smoking cessation resources. The reason is that the PCTs are short of money and so are reducing smoking cessation ...

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