DOCTORS are no longer prescribing stop smoking aids in Worcestershire in a plan slammed as ‘short-sighted’ and ‘prioritising saving money over saving lives’.

The British Lung Foundation found the local authority in Worcestershire fully decommissioned its stop smoking services in April 2016, and neighbouring Clinical Commissioning Groups then advised that no prescriptions for nicotine patches, gum, lozenges and sprays should be written for new patients.

The charity claims the impact of decommissioning services and advising GPs not to prescribe stop smoking aids is that the number of items prescribed through primary care in each CCG has plummeted in the area.

The findings were part of a wider study by the charity which it said found a 75 per cent decline in stop smoking aids being prescribed by GPs and pharmacists in England in 2016/17 compared with 2005/6.

The charity says CCGs were “prioritising saving money over saving lives and flouting the basic principles of the NHS” by cutting back on quitting services and treatment.

But it said that as people who smoke are likely to be frequent users of NHS services, it will eventually lead to a greater burden and any savings will only be in the short term.

However, a spokesman for Worcestershire's three Clinical Commissioning Groups, which buy health services, said: "Smoking cessation services are most effective if patients are offered a combination of behavioural support and drug treatment.

"Following the decision in April 2016 by Worcestershire County Council to stop funding smoking cessation services, the CCGs advised GPs that no drug treatment should be prescribed unless it is part of a smoking cessation programme.

"However, smokers who want to quit can go to their local pharmacy or access NHS websites that offer information, advice and email support.”

Alison Cook, director of policy at the British Lung Foundation, said all smokers should be able to expect their GP to provide access to stop smoking medication and cutting aids would only achieve short-term savings.

She added: "The decisions are foolhardy and must be reversed."

Ms Cook said the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence advises that smokers should have access to specialist services tailored to their needs.