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Hospital Trust extends support to help more pregnant smokers quit

January is a popular time for smokers to quit but the good news for pregnant families is that they will continue to receive free support all year round, thanks to the extension of a specialist team.

Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has given the green light on funding for its Phoenix Team, a maternity tobacco dependence treatment service, making it a permanent fixture in the Trust’s Maternity department.

The team helps mothers and birthing parents to give up smoking during pregnancy with one-to-one support from trained tobacco dependence advisors and free nicotine replacement products.

Fiona Cosby and Charlie Moody scaled
Fiona Cosby and Charlie Moody

The Trust was one of the first three maternity units in England to have a specialist Tobacco Dependency service. The service was nationally funded for two years and as a result of its success, Sherwood Forest Hospitals has decided to continue funding the service for the benefit of local families.

Since 2021, the Trust has helped more than 200 families to quit smoking during pregnancy and remain smoke-free after birth. In England, the rate of pregnant women and people smoking at the time of birth is 8.8%. At Sherwood Forest Hospitals, it’s 14.12%.

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Quitting smoking while pregnant reduces the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, heart defects and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Families also feel a positive impact financially as they see an increase in their disposable income.

The average cost to the NHS of providing care during pregnancy and birth to a person who smokes is double that of a non-smoker due to the interventions required.

Patients can self-refer or be referred by a health professional such as their midwife. A member of their household or close family, such as a partner, can also receive support to quit smoking if they wish.

One family that has benefited from the service is Fiona Cosby, her partner Rick Moody and baby Charlie Moody, who turns one today (Friday 19 January 2024).

Fiona, from Warsop, said: “At the start, I felt embarrassed and anxious because I was still smoking while carrying a baby. I was determined to quit and I’d already tried to do it by myself, but I was finding it really difficult so I asked for support at my first midwife appointment.

“The Phoenix Team was very welcoming and made me feel comfortable. There was no judgement and they reassured me that I wasn’t alone. They recommended nicotine replacement products I could try for free and those really helped.

“I couldn’t have done it without their support. Even since I had Charlie, any time I need a little bit of support they are always available over the phone.

“My partner gave up with support from the team around the same time after seeing my initial progress, so the future is now better for Charlie and our entire household.

“I’d encourage anyone who is in a similar position as me, to come and say hello to the team.”

As well as improving your health, there are other benefits. Fiona and Rick, who were each smoking at least 20 cigarettes a day before they quit, are putting the money they’ve saved towards their wedding this year.

Now the service has received permanent funding there will be more flexibility in how the service is delivered and the potential to expand. The Phoenix team will now support parents in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) who may not have received support during pregnancy and re-engage with those who may have previously turned it down.

Continuing to support families even after pregnancy will help ensure babies are going home to smoke-free homes as well as reducing risks of things such as cot death, respiratory illnesses and asthma.

Claire Allison, Tobacco Dependence Maternity Lead at Sherwood Forest Hospitals, said: “Those who have stopped smoking with support from the Phoenix team say they couldn’t have done it alone. The key thing is that our advisors provide support without any judgement or pressure and it’s all free. The expansion of this service is fantastic news for our pregnant families and means many more babies will have the opportunity to receive the very best start in life.”

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