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Call centre to help practices reach smoking target

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The Government’s big hurry-up on smoking cessation has prompted Wellington-headquartered Compass Health to offer more help to practices struggling to reach and advise patients who smoke.

A call centre opened last week at Compass, with seven staff to phone patients on behalf of practices in the area from Wellington to Manawatu (MidCentral DHB) and the Wairarapa.

The Government’s smoking cessation target did not reach primary care until July last year so it has been an enormous task, says Compass Health chief executive Cathy O’Malley.

The Government allowed just one year for the sector to give 90 per cent of patients advice and help to quit smoking.

At last report, for the second quarter of 2011/12, Capital & Coast DHB primary care was well below target, offering brief advice to approximately 35 per cent of patients.

Ms O’Malley says, up until recently, many practices have not recorded smoking status and advice. It did not necessarily mean the advice was not being given.

The call-centre effort runs until the end of June, to reach a good baseline and support what is preferably business as usual in practices, she says.

Call-centre staff trained in ABC

Throughout the country, many PHOs have trained coordinators and/or champions to pass on smoking cessation skills and knowledge to practices.

“All our practices have a person trained in ABC [ask, brief advice, counselling] smoking cessation and the call centre staff have been trained too,” Ms O’Malley says.

The centre’s seven staff will be calling patients between 3pm and 8pm, targeting people identified in the first stage of the project late last year who were sent a letter about the project.

Funding is from the PHO performance programme. Ms O’Malley would not disclose the budget for the project, saying it will depend on numbers opting in.

In MidCentral DHB’s area, Central PHO clinical director Chiquita Hansen says the percentage of enrolled people with a smoking status recorded improved from 76 per cent at December 2011 to 81 per cent at March 2012.

Call centre operators will be asking patients if they would like help to quit and, if so, will refer them to Quitline or the quit website www.quit.org.nz

The call centre keeps in close touch with the general practices, and “is in effect an extension of their services”, Ms Hansen says in a media release.

Need wider than Wellington area

Meanwhile, an ABC expert says GPs from throughout New Zealand want more help on how best to code and refer from the practice management system, and how best to engage with patients on quitting smoking.

GP John McMenamin, of Wicksteed House Medical Centre in Whanganui, advises the Ministry of Health on ABC, having led its use in smoking and alcohol intervention in general practice locally.

Dr McMenamin says success in Whanganui has shown PHO funding and administrative support are important.

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