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Duncan Selbie's Friday message – 3 March 2017

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Dear everyone

One in four patients in our acute hospital beds are smokers, yet recent figures from the British Thoracic Society show that only 1 in 13 patients who smoke are referred for treatment for tobacco addiction and only 1 in 10 hospitals completely enforce their fully smoke-free premises.

It is still not widely known that half of the health gap between the most affluent and the poorest people is accounted for by tobacco alone. We know that when health care professionals talk to the people in their care they get listened to, and we cannot miss this opportunity to tackle the leading cause of death and health inequalities in this country.

Our campaign for a truly tobacco-free NHS, which has been widely covered in the media this week, does not involve any new services or targets, but encourages the NHS to seize the opportunity to have conversations about smoking and to provide support or referral to help both patients and NHS staff to quit.  We will be pressing forward in trying to make this an everyday reality and part of what the NHS does.

What happens in pregnancy and early childhood impacts on physical and emotional health throughout childhood and throughout life, which is why supporting families in these critical years is arguably the most important to get right. On Wednesday, the Government confirmed its ask of local authorities to ensure that every child, everywhere, receives the five universal health visits for families starting at 28 weeks of pregnancy and continuing until age 2 and a half.

These moments are founded on best evidence as opportunities to support mothers’ mental health, discuss immunisations, breastfeeding and healthy diet options for babies and provide referral to other services to help children have the best possible start to life.

On the same day Education Secretary Justine Greening announced that Relationships and Sex Education will be compulsory in all schools in England, alongside a commitment to look at doing the same for Personal, Social and Health Education. Young people say in every recent survey that good mental health and help to be more resilient are their top concerns and this recognition by Government is great to see.

Also on Wednesday we launched the latest edition of Health Matters, which focuses on preventing drug misuse deaths. We have seen a significant rise in the past three years, with 2,300 deaths in England in 2015 – the highest number on record. Many are associated with long-term heroin use, but others are occurring across different age groups, and as the result of different types of drug.

But more than half of those who died were not in any form of drug treatment. This edition of Health Matters, which had the biggest launch teleconference audience to date, outlines how commissioners and providers can ensure the capacity and quality of drug treatment services are maintained, that those outside treatment are brought in, and that access to wider health care for drug users is also improved. Do share the infographics, slide set, case studies, video and blogs with colleagues.

High blood pressure is the third biggest risk factor for premature death and disability in England, and despite it being largely preventable and easily manageable, only 4 in 10 adults with high blood pressure are diagnosed and managing their condition in line with NICE recommendations. On Monday, Pharmacy Voice, an association of trade bodies representing community pharmacies in England, published its response to the national action plan for tackling blood pressure on behalf of the community pharmacy sector.

Their report explores how the community pharmacy sector is already contributing to the national blood pressure action plan, highlighting best practice from local areas, and considers how we can share and build on this across England, to make a greater impact over the coming years. It is well worth a read for policy makers, commissioners and the thousands of pharmacy teams across England.

Last month the United Nations General Assembly adopted new indicators for measuring global progress in reducing the losses sustained during disasters such as flooding and earthquakes – important work supported by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), UN member states and observers and relevant stakeholders, including Professor Virginia Murray, our consultant in global disaster risk reduction, who represented the UNISDR Scientific and Technical Advisory Group.

This means that UN Member States that have adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, including the UK, will now be able to measure their efforts to reduce disaster losses, such as the number of deaths and damage to critical infrastructure including health facilities. I believe this is a hugely important step as we need to be able to measure in order to improve.

With best wishes,

Friday messages from 2012-2016 are available on GOV.UK

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  1. Comment by Charles Heppell posted on

    Why does PHE not have a camapain for a 'truly tobacco-free PHE'?

  2. Comment by Eamonn O'Moore posted on

    Thanks for focus on drug-related deaths through reference to the Health Matters teleconference this week and to Rosanna O'Connor and her team for the excellent presentation, infographics and discussion on this. Linking some of the other themes, people who use drugs are also more likely to smoke, less likely to access preventive and treatment services and more likely to end up in prison than peers. Implementation of smoke-free prisons programme will also address smoking behaviours among this group which hopefully will have a 'ripple effect' among peer groups and provide further evidence of a 'community dividend' for our work with prison populations.