Personalised letters and a “taster session” help double attendance at NHS stop smoking services

Gilbert H, Sutton S, Morris R, et al. Start2quit: a randomised clinical controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of using personal tailored risk information and taster sessions to increase the uptake of the Unstop Smoking Services. Health Technol Assess. 2017;21(3):1-206.

Attendance at NHS stop smoking services (SSS) almost doubled after smokers were sent letters showing their personalised risk of serious illness if they continued to smoke alongside invitations to try the service.

Less than 5% of smokers attend these services in England and numbers are on the decline, although this is one of the most effective ways of stopping smoking.

A personalised risk letter was sent to 2,636 smokers alongside an invitation to a local taster session. 17.4% attended, compared to 9.0% of 1,748 smokers who received a standard letter advertising the service. The letter and invitation to a taster session also increased the number who had quit smoking by six months (9% vs. 5.6%).

This proactive recruitment looked likely to be cost effective over a person’s lifetime compared to the usual non-specific invitation.

Those recruited represented only a small proportion of smokers wishing to quit and who may be more motivated than most. There remains a need across all of society to increase accessibility to stop smoking services.

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