Complete smokefree policies in mental health inpatient settings: Results from a mixed-methods evaluation before and after implementing national guidance

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Abstract

Background: Tobacco smoking is extremely prevalent in people with severe mental illness (SMI) and has been recognised as the main contributor to widening health inequalities in this population. Historically, smoking has been deeply entrenched in the culture of mental health settings in the UK, and until recently, smokefree policies tended to be only partially implemented. However, recent national guidance and the government's tobacco control plan now call for the implementation of complete smokefree policies. Many mental health Trusts across the UK are currently in the process of implementing the new guidance, but little is known about the impact of and experience with policy implementation. Methods: This paper reports findings from a mixed-methods evaluation of policy implementation across 12 wards in a large mental health Trust in England. Quantitative data were collected and compared before and after implementation of NICE guidance PH48 and referred to 1) identification and treatment of tobacco dependence, 2) smoking-related incident reporting, and 3) prescribing of psychotropic medication. A qualitative exploration of the experience of inpatients was also carried out. Descriptive statistical analyses were performed, and the feasibility of collecting relevant and complete data for each quantitative component was assessed. Qualitative data were analysed using thematic framework analysis. Results: Following implementation of the complete smokefree policy, increases in the numbers of patients offered smoking cessation advice (72% compared to 38%) were identified. While incident reports demonstrated a decrease in challenging behaviour during the post-PH48 period (6% compared to 23%), incidents relating to the concealment of smoking materials increased (10% compared to 2%). Patients reported encouraging changes in smoking behaviour and motivation to maintain change after discharge. However, implementation issues challenging full policy implementation, including covert facilitation of smoking by staff, were reported, and difficulties in collecting relevant and complete data for comprehensive evaluation purposes identified. Conclusions: Overall, the implementation of complete smokefree policies in mental health settings may currently be undermined by partial support. Strategies to enhance support and the establishment of suitable data collection pathways to monitor progress are required.

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Huddlestone, L., Sohal, H., Paul, C., & Ratschen, E. (2018). Complete smokefree policies in mental health inpatient settings: Results from a mixed-methods evaluation before and after implementing national guidance. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-3320-6

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