A Breath of Fresh Air: research into the training needs of UK GPs on Very Brief Advice for smoking cessation

Our report shows that not enough GPs are equipped to have effective conversations about smoking with patients.

We recently carried out research to find out whether GPs are being trained to give a type of support that helps people quit smoking called Very Brief Advice for smoking cessation (VBA).

People with asthma who smoke have a higher risk of asthma attacks so one of the best things people can do to manage their asthma is to quit. And people are much more likely to be able to stop smoking if they get this support from a trained professional like their doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

However, our research shows that more than half of GPs have never had any training in VBA. Worryingly only 2% said they had training which they felt was comprehensive.

VBA is simply a framework that helps health care professionals talk to patients about smoking, which also makes sure that patients can get support to stop. As it takes just 30 seconds to do, and is proven to work whilst also being cost-effective, VBA should be used universally by all health care professionals.

Our report provides new insight into the levels of training that UK GPs have in VBA, and provides a series of recommendations for policy makers to ensure it's used more widely.

Download a PDF copy of A Breath of Fresh Air here.

Download the report

Key recommendations:

  • The training, which is quick, free and available online, should become compulsory for all frontline staff in general practice
  • The numbers of people completing VBA training should be collected across primary care. The data should be made public so we know how well we’re improving
  • Specialist stop smoking services should be funded sustainably across the UK so that GPs can refer patients into them