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Mental health professionals urgently need adequate training to support their patients to quit smoking and provide necessary aid to the smokers with mental health issues, a new report has said.

The new report published by the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) charity said that the current provision of “woefully inadequate” training would impede the government in its commitment to deliver a smoke free nation by 2030.

It found that there are 1.6 million smokers in England with a long-term mental health condition equivalent to one in four of all smokers.

The very high rate of smoking among people with poor mental health is a major cause of early death and also becomes a leading reason for the 15-20 year gap in life expectancy with the rest of the population.

The majority of doctors and nurses felt that their training and education had ill-equipped them to support patients. They backed such training being made mandatory throughout a professional’s career, starting at undergraduate level.

The report calls for a national action plan to roll out training on smoking for mental health staff, to ensure they are equipped to help their patients quit. Such training will be effective and cost-effective, and is essential if the NHS is to deliver on its commitment to providing universal stop smoking service offer for people in mental health services.

Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Psychiatrists are passionate about helping their patients live healthier lives. This report shows that gaps in training are undermining progress. Smoking is not an inevitable part of our patient’s lives but an addiction to treat. Improving the skills and knowledge of psychiatrists is a vital step in the right direction.”

Professor Dame Anne Marie Rafferty, president of Royal College of Nursing said: “Our patients need us to provide effective support for an addiction that is killing them. That doesn’t mean every mental health nurse needs to become an expert, but we must be able to talk to people about their smoking in a meaningful way and discuss the options out there to help them quit. With better training the goal of a smokefree future for our patients is much more achievable.”

Hazel Cheeseman, director of Policy, ASH said: “Smoking in mental health services needs to be taken as seriously as alcohol and illicit drug addictions. Many thousands of people with mental health conditions die from smoking every year and this will continue unless there is adequate investment in staff training.

“If the government is serious in its desire to level up society and deliver a smokefree nation by 2030 doctors and nurses must be trained to can give smokers with mental health conditions the help they need to quit.”.

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