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Evaluating the North East and North Cumbria NHS Staff Tobacco Dependency Offer

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Evaluating the North East and North Cumbria NHS Staff Tobacco Dependency Offer

Quick-read summary

Researchers conducted a mixed method evaluation involving a quantitative survey and interviews with NHS staff who engaged with the North East and North Cumbria NHS Staff Tobacco Dependency Offer pilot, to find out their views, perspectives, and experiences of accessing this pilot.

The research highlights how the offer was acceptable to staff accessing the service and suggests some potential barriers and enablers to accessing and using the service.

Who is this evidence useful for?

Tobacco Commissioners, NHS Smokefree Leaders, Public Health Colleagues, Occupational Health and Wellbeing Leads and Academics.

What is the issue?

  • A tobacco dependency offer was piloted for NHS staff working within the North East and North Cumbria.
  • This service aims to support NHS staff working within the North East and North Cumbria have a quit attempt, through providing Behavioural Support, 12 weeks free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) (including access to a vape), and free access to the Smokefree app.

Research summary

68 participants completed an online or paper copy of the Theoretical Framework of Acceptability (TFA), a validated survey for measuring acceptability of healthcare interventions. Interviews were carried out with 18 staff members, from across work settings i.e., professional, routine, and manual workers, who accessed the offer from local authorities across the NENC.

What the research found

The survey found that the staff offer was deemed as acceptable to staff, and interviews found four themes:

  1. Participants, once familiar with the service through advertisement on emails/intranet pages, found accessing the service easy, and this was seen as a motivating factor for engaging with the service.
  2. Participants were satisfied with the options of NRT available for them to access through the service, generally reporting an ability to access their desired form of NRT. Participants also found the service for ordering replaceable E-Liquid for vapes, easy to navigate and reported fast delivery.
  3. Some participants reported technical issues associated with the vape offered; however, participants generally suggested that the vape was a good starting point for quitting smoking, with people reporting on the free vape itself being a strong motivation to begin a quit smoking journey.
  4. Participants reported good communication with smoking advisors with regular contact being something that facilitated successful quits. Some participants suggested that they would have benefitted from more contact with advisors, with more accessible options for how they were contacted e.g., face-to-face, telephone, or video calling.

Why is this important?

This research highlights the acceptability of the Staff Tobacco Dependency Offer to NHS staff accessing the pilot.

The work provides key recommendations for commissioners, policy makers and frontline tobacco dependence advisors/professions to build upon.

The recommendations will help commissioners and policy makers to find solutions to barriers identified within the research.

Recommendations for policy and practice

Based on the findings of our evaluation, we suggest the following ten recommendations for policy and practice:

Service promotion:

  1. Stop smoking services to be accessible to NHS staff across different work settings through advertising the service with posters/word-of-mouth for front-line staff/routine manual workers, and email/trust intranet pages for office-based workers;
  2. If providing on-site support, ensure staff know about the service and what is being offered;

User engagement:

  1. To ensure that dedicated support for staff is available on-site where possible;
  2. For on-site support to create an in-person environment to allow users to meet other staff accessing the service, and create peer networks for support on their quit journeys;
  3. Where behavioural support is provided, offer service users the scope to pre-book appointments for check-ins and tailoring the location and frequency of check-ins to the service user needs, e.g., private rooms, phone calls or video calls;
  4. Service users to be sign-posted to features on the SmokeFree app e.g., online chat forums to create online peer networks with other people quitting smoking;


  1. Improving the frequency/quality of training for dedicated support staff, where possible, to promote rapport building with service users;
  2. Provide support staff with up-to date knowledge on the known effects/benefits of vaping in comparison to smoking;
  3. Providing support staff with knowledge and learning of the available vape options, to improve troubleshooting and overcoming any reported technical issues associated with vapes.

Service quality and evaluation:

  1. Create a space to provide service feedback, to continue to reflect on service user experience, and make regular improvements, where possible.

Get in touch about this research

Caitlin Thompson

[email protected]

Dr Kerry Brennan-Tovey

[email protected]

Dr Ryc Aquino

[email protected]


Download the policy and practice brief