NHS pulls funding on gay smoking cessation

Amy Bourke February 27, 2007
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Gay men are set to lose one of the most successful quit smoking courses in the country after it has been denied funding by London’s NHS trusts.

March 14 will be National No Smoking Day, yet thousands of gay men may be unable to get the help they need to quit because the Gay Men Fighting Aids course is under threat.

GMFA, the UK’s only charity dedicated to gay men’s health, runs a stopping smoking that boasts a 68% success rate compared with the 55% success rate offered by NHS courses.

“We have been helping gay men to stop smoking for over five years and the new law banning smoking in public places, which comes into play on July 1st means that the demand for the course is greater than ever,” said Matthew Hodson, Head of Programmes for GMFA.

“Our tailored gay men’s course improves their chances of quitting. Sending gay men to generic services just doesn’t make sense.”

Gay men are more likely to smoke than their straight counterparts.

41% of gay men are smokers, a figure which soars above the national average of 25 per cent.

For HIV positive gay men the story is worse still, as they are more likely than other gay men to be heavy smokers, smoking 10 or more cigarettes per day.

But data from the Gay Men’s Sex Survey showed that 67.3% of London’s gay smokers would like to give up.

“Gay men are among those at the highest risk from smoking related disease. Providing tailored support for men to quit together has been a real success story,” added Ben Youdan, chief executive of No Smoking Day.

“To lose this valuable service so close to smoke-free legislation could be real step backwards from helping those who would benefit most.”

Medical research shows that if healthcare professionals have little understanding of gay men’s specific health needs, or little desire to understand their social and sexual lives, the standard of care is low.

This low level of care has repeatedly been linked to a homophobic attitude among healthcare professionals, and it has been estimated that homophobic attitudes exist among 20% of UK medical providers.

“To provide a service that helps gay men to quit smoking, you need to understand the cultural, social and personal needs of gay men. It’s clear that many general services can not offer that kind of support,” added Hodson.

In another blow to quit attempts, many gay men in London are also being denied access to beneficial new drugs suggested on the GMFA course for those having difficulty quitting.

Many patients still have to pay for them privately while GPs await the lengthy NICE guidance process to approve the drugs.

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