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Practices failing to discover patient smoking habits

Many practices fail to ascertain whether or not their patients smoke, and fail to intervene when they do, research suggests.

Clinical guidelines recommend that systematically discovering the smoking status of GP practice patients should be a fundamental component of healthcare provision.

In a study published in the journal BMC Health Services Research, postal questionnaires were sent to all patients aged over 18 years from 24 general practices in Nottingham.

All patients were registered as a smoker or had "no smoking" status recorded in their medical notes.

Of the practices surveyed, the proportion of patients with a smoking status recorded varied from 42.4% to 100%.

Of the 6,856 patients who identified themselves as current smokers, 41.4% said they would like to talk to a specialist about quitting the habit.
The study authors commented: "While in many practices the ascertainment of smoking status is incomplete and/or inaccurate, failure to intervene appropriately on known status still remains the biggest challenge."

BMC Health Services Research

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"I agree with the readers comments with regard to pts thinking it is none of our business, but any practice claiming to give pt focused holistic care can do nothing but ask if the patient is a smoker or not, as it is an integral piece of their medical history. If we stopped asking pts about their health habits just because they felt uncomfortable we would never discuss breast and testicle examination, eating habits, weight, sexual difficulties etc. If patients wish to access good quality health care and advice they need to be aware that we need all the facts not just the selective bits that they are comfortable to talk about. You would never get a bank loan without a full financial screen so why expect good health care without a frank and open disclosure of all the facts! - Sue Clover Prestwood House Surgery, Swadlincote

"When asked about smoking status I find many people become quite guarded. This may be because they have an issue with being asked. Some get quite uncomfortable and prefer to move swiftly on to the next question. Overall I think patients feel it is none of our business" - Name and address supplied