People in south east Northumberland thinking about quitting smoking are being encouraged to seek help from the NHS at drop-ins sessions in Ashington and Blyth.
Northumberland Stop Smoking Service, which is provided by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, is holding weekly sessions from 4.30pm to 7pm at Hirst Welfare, Ashington, on Wednesdays and at Briardale Community Centre, Blyth, on Thursdays until the end of next month.
Evidence shows that you are up to four times more likely to quit smoking successfully if you access support from your local NHS stop smoking service.
Last year, the Northumberland Stop Smoking Service helped more than 2,000 people to achieve their goal of going smoke-free including Kathleen Barron from Bedlington.
Mother-of-three Kathleen quit smoking with the help of medication and one-to-one support. Having first tried smoking at 11, Kathleen was soon hooked.
Kathleen, 60, said: “I started because many of my friends were and it seemed like the grown-up thing to do. We smoked 80 a day without even thinking about it.”
Kathleen, who lives with her husband, has had a number of health problems over the years including angina and deep vein thrombosis and in 1992 she retired early due to ill health. In 2009, she was also diagnosed with mild chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and now struggles to breathe because of her condition.
COPD is the name for a group of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The main symptom of COPD is the inability to breathe in and out properly which is also known as airflow obstruction which is caused by long-term damage to the lungs, usually as a result of smoking.
Kathleen was referred to Northumberland Stop Smoking Service when her condition got considerably worse and she became housebound:
She said: “I was devastated when I found out I had COPD and even when I had to retire early and was classed disabled I still did not think that my smoking had anything to do with it – I thought I knew better.
“But last year my breathing got really bad, I was gasping for air and was rushed to hospital. They kept me in for six weeks and told me I needed oxygen 24/7 to stay at home and that’s when I decided it was time to quit for good.
“I quit in hospital and the hospital referred me to the stop smoking services. They were really supportive and even came to my house as I could not get to a session. After their first visit my husband decided to give up too and we’ve been off the cigarettes for 10 months now.”
Kathleen had home visits from the service because of her condition and her husband went to one-to-one sessions at Bedlington Sure Start initially then they decided to have joint sessions at their home.
She added: “Brenda, my stop smoking advisor, was great. She is always there when I need her. Even now she still rings me up to see how things are, and gives me encouragement and advice when I need it.”
Since quitting smoking, Kathleen’s health has dramatically improved with help from both Northumberland Stop Smoking Service and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s health trainer service, which helped Kathleen make changes to her lifestyle. This included creating diet plans and exercise programmes. She now doesn’t need oxygen at home, and following regular exercise classes, at Age UK Northumberland, Roundhouse, in Ashington, she has lost over a stone.
“I was thrilled when my GP said I did not need the oxygen anymore. Quitting is the best thing I’ve done. I can breathe more easily, my skin looks better, my clothes don’t smell and I now get out of the house. I enjoy going to regular exercise classes.
“I’m sure if others knew what its like to have COPD they would never start smoking!” she said.
Going smoke-free is the single biggest thing you can do to improve your health. Your local NHS stop smoking service offers the most tried and tested way to help you quit smoking.
Brenda Warner, stop smoking advisor at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s never too late to stop smoking and I would urge anyone who is thinking of quitting to pop in one of our sessions during the day, in the evening and at weekends too. It’s great to support people like Kathleen to quit and to see her health improving and enjoying life so soon after quitting.”
Free NHS support to go smoke-free is available in easy to access locations in Northumberland up to 120 hours a week, including children’s centres, shopping centres, and community centres. Support can also be accessed via your GP, pharmacy or local health centre.
For more information about the sessions or advice, contact the Northumberland Stop Smoking Service on 01670 813 135 or click here