Making change happen isn’t an event, it’s a process. Something that is ongoing, not one-off. Furthermore, it’s not just big, high-profile changes that are important. I often talk about the need for us to change how the health system works so that we keep people well and healthy at home rather than coming into hospital. Big management projects, like our 20,000 Days campaign and our work with localities, are certainly important in achieving this, but there are also smaller complementary changes we can make which are just as meaningful.
Today I want to talk about a small change you’ve been making which has added up to a big result: supporting our population to become smokefree. We’ve known for many years that smoking is the biggest cause of preventable disease and death in New Zealand. We’ve also known for some time that becoming smokefree is not as easy as simply stopping smoking. It requires a much more comprehensive and supportive approach from everyone involved.
That’s why I’m so pleased that Counties Manukau Health has met the national health target around offering better support to smokers to quit for the first time ever. We achieved 95% for Quarter One 2012/13 – a magnificent result. Today I’m joined by our Smokefree Programme Manager Vicki Evans, and I’d like to start by congratulating her and the Living Smokefree team on the work they’ve done to help make this happen.
People often find that meeting targets becomes a tick box activity, but at CM Health we’ve pursued the targets as part of our approach to promoting the health and wellbeing of our community. Part of our role as a district health board is to advise and support our community with the decisions they make about their health. As such we’ve been working very, very hard, particularly during the last few months, to ensure that all patients who smoke are given the right advice and support to become smokefree. In the last year, around 16,000 of our hospitalised patients who smoke have been offered advice and support to quit. Based on national research, an estimated 10,000 of that group will have made a quit attempt as a result of that intervention, and almost 3,500 will have stopped smoking successfully at four weeks which, in turn, will have had a significant impact on demand for hospital bed days.
There is no doubt that offering smokefree support and advice is having a real impact on a significant group of patients. It’s also complementing the wider work we are doing to reduce the demand on our hospital and keep people well and at home in the community. These big changes are thanks to you and the time you take every day to support patients to become smokefree. It’s a small change that is making a big difference – to our patients, to our community and to the demand for our health services.
We really want to thank all staff for their diligence and determination in helping us reach the target, but more importantly in helping us reach more patients. Sometimes the big issues, like diabetes and rheumatic fever, feel too hard to fix yet here’s an example where we are making change and having a meaningful impact. We really think this is something to celebrate, and as such, all staff are invited to the ‘Celebrating Smokefree’ event which will be held in Ko Awatea at 10:30 on Monday morning. You’ve all played a role in this so we hope, where possible, you will all take the time to celebrate your success.
Our next challenge is to continue our smokefree journey in Primary Care, supporting GPs like Dr Bruce Arroll in Manurewa (whose great work featured in an article in the New Zealand Herald this week) to offer smokefree advice to their patients. With approximately 4,700 adults seeing their GP on any given week day in Counties Manukau, we have a greater ability to reach even more of our community and support them to become smokefree. We look forward to building on the great work we’ve started in CM Health, to making the smokefree intervention ‘business as usual’ for patients at all of our sites, and to supporting our colleagues in Primary Care, all of which will help support our community to be smokefree and healthy at home.
Geraint and Vicki