Health bosses unite to end tobacco dependency in pregnancy

Image of Chief Executives holding pledge to end smoking in pregnancy

Leading chief executives and accountable officers have met to work together to tackle one of the single biggest health issues impacting children across the North East and North Cumbria – smoking during pregnancy.

In a high profile event held at the Emirates Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street, County Durham over 100 leaders from across the region came together to pledge their commitment to ending tobacco dependency in pregnancy.

The initiative was borne of a group of leaders who have participated in the widely acclaimed Yale System Leadership Programme. The team of healthcare and local authority progressive thinkers identified an issue they felt they could tackle – tobacco dependency during pregnancy, and created a ‘guiding coalition’ including local maternity systems, leading midwives and clinical experts.

David Hambleton, Chief Executive for South Tyneside CCG from the group explains more ‘we wanted to tackle something we could impact, to create an aspirant direction for the future of the North East and North Cumbria. We wanted to create a new conversation, one that recognised smoking as an addiction. In order to ensure it would impact we called upon leaders across the system to support a new script for expectant mothers’.

‘We have a responsibility to ensuring that our region thrives, from education to housing, job opportunities and population health.’

Julie Gillon, Chief Executive for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

The newly launched script which talks to expectant mothers about their habit as ‘an addiction’ is aimed at sending a hard hitting message about the realities of the impacts on their unborn child.

In January 2019 the NHS launched its ‘Long Term Plan’ which set out aims to tackle health inequalities with a firm emphasis on ensuring children have ‘the best possible start’, whilst promoting a very clear population health message aimed at prevention.

One young expectant mum from Sunderland was one of the first pregnant ladies to hear the newly developed script and has shared her story in an emotional video. Serena comments ‘up until now I thought only of myself, I started smoking because I was hanging around with the wrong people. As soon as I heard the impact that my actions could have on my unborn baby – I vowed to quit. I am now smoke free and I’m looking forward to welcoming a healthy baby girl to our family in the coming weeks’.

Statistics surrounding the number of women who smoke during pregnancy are stark. Around 65,000 babies are born to mothers who smoke each year. Nationally around 10% of expectant mothers have a dependency throughout their pregnancy – in the North East that figure increases to 17%.

Image of Chief Executive Julie Gillon presenting at smoking in pregnancy event

Smoking during pregnancy causes up to 2,200 premature births, 5,000 miscarriages and 300 perinatal death deaths every year in the UK*.

The Yale Group is focused on a collaborative approach to system working, ensuring a more joined up approach than ever before. Julie Gillon, Chief Executive for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust sums up ‘we have a responsibility to ensuring that our region thrives, from education to housing, job opportunities and population health. By coming together as one single voice for the North East and North Cumbria, we can be louder than ever before’.

The team, alongside colleagues from Local Maternity Services will visit health trusts across the North East and North Cumbria over the coming weeks to gain support for the movement in a series of events encouraging signing of the pledge.

Statistics revealed last week indicate that by aiming to reduce tobacco dependency during pregnancy to the national target of 6% by 2022 we could save the system an estimated £4.8m.

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