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Mastering the maze

Joint working with NHS local stop smoking services

Published: 10 Oct 2010

A figure running to the centre of a maze

Client: Pfizer Ltd

Agency: Courtney Alexander Consulting Ltd

Campaign: Joint Working with NHS Local Stop Smoking Services (LSSS)

Timescale: 2008 to present

A quick look

In 2008, many NHS LSSS were facing stiff challenges to meet stop smoking targets. New NICE and DH guidance offered a platform for increasing quitter numbers, however many LSSS were not equipped to implement these guidelines effectively. Pfizer Ltd piloted partnerships with seven PCTs in 2008, exploring a number of ways of how joint working could increase numbers. LSSS feedback and the published increase in footfall through LSSS, showed that the partnerships had considerable impact. Partnerships with seven more sites were started in 2009. These partnerships focused on developing new ways of working with GP practices and are enjoying similar success.


Smoking cigarettes causes an estimated 114,000 deaths a year in the UK.  In spite of smoke-free legislation and ongoing high levels of anti-smoking promotion, around 10m adults in the UK still smoke. In 2009, researchers found that the true cost of smoking was over £5.2bn per year. Unsurprisingly smoking cessation remains a high priority for all PCTs.

In 2008, many NHS Local Stop Smoking Services (LSSS) were facing a shortfall against annual quit targets. Recognising the central role that LSSS play in driving the quit process, and their increasing difficulty in meeting targets, Pfizer piloted a new partnership initiative with a cross section of LSSS supplying external support supported by local Pfizer personnel. The objective was to increase footfall by upskilling LSSS staff across a range of disciplines and facilitating closer working with PCTs.


NICE guidelines for smoking cessation (Feb 2008) recommended that, to optimise success rates, HCPs should offer referral to a LSSS. Subsequent DH guidance reiterated the importance of LSSS establishing partnerships with HCPs to recruit and support smokers. To drive implementation of both NICE and DH guidance, partnership activities included:

•    Developing HCP engagement programmes
•    Training LSSS staff in a number of disciplines
•    Developing vision statements
•    Teambuilding
•    Social marketing.

Typically each LSSS had face-to-face contact with a Courtney Alexander consultant every two to three weeks for approximately six months. Pfizer Local Account Management and NHS Training Solutions teams provided further complementary support for the LSSS. 


PCTs were asked: “How effective was the activity… at increasing the numbers of quitters contacting your Service?”

In response, 12 out of 14 PCTs stated that it was “very effective” or “extremely effective”. The remaining two PCTs stated that it was “effective”. The average percentage increase in footfall (numbers setting a quit date) was +17.6%.

Client verdict

“Simply put, our current GP programme would not exist without [this support].”
NHS Hounslow

“…the clinics in the localities which we have targeted are definitely busier.”
NHS Leics County & Rutland

“This service is a huge asset to Stop Smoking Services.”
NHS Harrow

“It looks as if the project will direct a lot of [smokers] our way.”
NHS Hull

“We started the GP engagement programme … and it has helped to increase the number of GP practices delivering [quitters].”
NHS Hillingdon



Two-way dialogue has increased skills and understanding among LSSS and HCPs and  forged an ongoing synergistic relationship. Just as importantly the skills, processes and partnerships put in place are a sustainable legacy that enable each LSSS to continue to function more effectively.

Quantitative data allied to subjective feedback suggest that this novel, highly successful example of partnership working is an effective model for joint working between the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS.


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