Publish date: 18 May 2023

Two women siting. One of them is holding a baby.A north east trust is reflecting on the positive impact it’s had on families across Northumberland and North Tyneside, just one year after introducing a dedicated team of Best Start in Life (BSiL) advisors.  

The BSiL team is part of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Public Health Service and was launched in May 2022 to help women and families to achieve a smokefree pregnancy.

The team provides ongoing, tailored support from the early stage of pregnancy and beyond. It has had over 1000 referrals since it started and there are early indications from the data that the team is helping to reduce smoking rates.

The most recent quarterly data published by NHS Digital shows that Northumbria Healthcare had the lowest rate of smokers at the time of delivery between October and December 2022. At 8.3%, this is the lowest rate recorded to date for the trust and is lower than the regional average of 12.3% and the national average of 8.6%.

The BSiL advisors work closely with families to understand any challenges they face in achieving a healthy pregnancy to provide pre and post-natal support.  The team provide a holistic approach, focusing on behaviour change and working with the family to understand their individual needs.  As well as offering a full smoking cessation service, including free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), the team can support with a variety of issues which affect the family to support a healthier pregnancy and the best start in life for the child.

Jayde Cranston, from Northumberland is just one of the many women to have received support from the team. She said:

“I started smoking when I was 12 and smoked 10 a day. I’d tried to give up lots of times in the past but never had the motivation to quit for good.

“When I booked my pregnancy, Shauna called from the Best Start in Life team. She was so friendly and didn't judge. She went through the risks of smoking in pregnancy and I knew that I had to stop for both mine and my baby’s health.

“Shauna was so supportive throughout and even inspired my partner to give up smoking too. I had my healthy baby boy six weeks ago and I’m so proud that he can grow up in a smokefree, healthy home.

“If anyone is pregnant and contacted by the team, please speak to them. They’re all so lovely and there whenever you need them. I now see Shauna as much more than an advisor, she’s a friend.”

Jenna Wall, head of midwifery at Northumbria Healthcare said:

“We are so pleased with the latest report which shows our lowest number of pregnant smokers to date. This is down to the brilliant work of the team, I'm so proud of everything they've done in such a short space of time and hope the numbers continue to reduce.

"We've had a fantastic response from the families in our care. We'll continue to grow the team to help people access the support they need to give babies the best start in life."

Smoking in pregnancy is one of the biggest risk factors in pregnancy. It doubles the chance of stillbirth, can cause growth issues and increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Quitting smoking before 16 weeks of pregnancy reduces the risks to that of a non-smoker. Northumbria Healthcare will grow its team of advisors to ensure that support is easy to access for those who need it most, when they need it. This will help those who are harder to reach, often living with complex social needs.

The work of the BSiL team plays a key part in the trust’s public health work to improve population health and reduce health inequalities in its local communities.

The team offer home visits, support in local family hubs and telephone support. For more information on the benefits of a smokefree pregnancy please speak to your midwife or visit