Smoking costs North East £80.5m a year in social-care bills

Picture by Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Picture by Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

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New figures show that smoking is adding to England’s social-care crisis, with at least £80.5million a year spent in the North East on social care required because of smoking-related illness.

The problem is set to get worse, because the local authority public-health grant which pays for stop-smoking services is being cut by central government.

Research published today by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) shows that local authorities in England face a bill of £760million a year, up from £600million in 2012, to help people with smoking-related illness stay in their own homes (domiciliary care).

Individuals also face a bill of about £630million to cover the cost of their own care. This is on top of the estimated cost to the NHS of around £2billion.

In the North East, the figures for 2015/16 show that the total additional spending by local authorities on social care as a result of smoking for adults aged 50 and over was approximately £44million.

Plus, individuals across the region aged 50 and over also faced a bill of more than £36.6million to cover the cost of their own care. In addition, a further 13,595 individuals receive informal care from friends and family.

The new figures are included in an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health report published today following an inquiry convened by Bob Blackman MP, chairman of the APPG.

It highlights the need for national leadership to ensure smoking rates continue to fall and urges the Government to publish the new tobacco control plan for England – now more than a year overdue – without further delay.

The report also highlights the faster decline in smoking rates in the North East, where smoking fell by 9.1 per cent between 2005 and 2014 compared to a six per cent fall nationally, with strong and continued commitment by local authorities to tackling smoking after responsibility for public health was transferred from the NHS.

John Pearce, from South Tyneside Council and chairman of the North East regional group for directors of adult social services, said: “There is not only rising demand for care, but also increasing costs. It is not just hospital budgets that are affected. In a region like the North East with very high smoking rates in previous decades and an ageing population, we are seeing a high burden placed on social care.

“Preventing people from needing care in the first place is vital and reducing smoking can make an important contribution both to reducing the costs of care to councils and improving the quality of life for many who may otherwise need years of care.

“Though the Government has taken short-term steps to try to relieve the serious strain being placed on individuals, councils and the NHS, without urgent action, the situation will only worsen.”