New figures reveal smoking in pregnancy rates at all-time low in Greater Manchester

New NHS data has shown that the number of people smoking during pregnancy in Greater Manchester has dropped to the lowest on record.

Smoking at the Time of Delivery (SATOD) rates have fallen by around a quarter in the past four years – down from 1 in 8 (12.6%) new mothers in 2017-18 to fewer than 1 in 10 (9.8%) in 2020-21 , meaning 945 more babies were born smokefree.

It shows the success of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnerships’ Smokefree Pregnancy programme which was set up in 2018 and is recognised as best practice nationally. In the 12 months between April 2020 and March 2021, the programme supported more than 1,700 people on their journey to stop smoking, including pregnant women and their partners, and saw a 65% successful quit rate.

The programme was created as part of efforts to give every baby the best start to life. NHS maternity staff in Greater Manchester are given comprehensive training to have open and honest conversations about the risks of smoking, use carbon monoxide (CO) screening to check for exposure to tobacco smoke and refer people who need help to a maternity-led stop smoking service.

A qualified midwife for 20 years, Jane Coyne, Strategic Lead for the Greater Manchester Smokefree Pregnancy programme, has seen first-hand the devastating impact smoking can have on babies. Jane said: “Greater Manchester has seen the number of women smoking at the time of delivery fall to its lowest level. Over the last few years, that’s almost 1,000 more babies born free from the risks of smoke that may not have been otherwise.

“Smoking is a major factor in babies being born early, unwell or in the worst cases stillborn. Unfortunately, the risks don’t end after birth – babies in homes where someone smokes are more likely to die from cot death or sudden infant death syndrome. Every parent wants the best for their child, but quitting smoking is not easy, and it is a serious addiction, not a lifestyle choice. That’s why the Smokefree Pregnancy programme is so important in making sure everyone gets the individual help and support they need.

“The programme is saving babies’ lives and it shows the vital role that health professionals play. I’m incredibly proud of what the team has achieved over the last three years – we must keep going with this vital work and deliver a smokefree start for every baby.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic it has been essential to continue supporting pregnant smokers to quit and much of the programme engagement needed to move online, including virtual clinics and a digital approach to monitoring and supporting those on the programme. The number of women referring themselves to the stop smoking service also increased, and personal carbon monoxide monitors were issued, allowing service users to complete CO screenings at home that linked through to a smartphone app which the specialist midwives could track to validate their quit journey.

Health Innovation Manchester (HInM) has worked with Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership to develop a digital platform to support specialist midwives working on the programme.

The platform digitises the pathway with the aim of reducing the amount of time spent inputting and collating data, creating more time for midwives to provide care. Launched in January 2021, it is now being used across Greater Manchester to enable the programme to standardise the collection of data, see the impact of the programme and identify opportunities to make improvements.

Guy Lucchi, Digital Innovation Director at Health Innovation Manchester and Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “By working with the system to identify the needs and co-design a digital solution, we are enabling this important service to continue to help people quit smoking while also reducing the administrative burden maternity teams have faced in the past.

“We are now starting to see how this platform is making a difference to those working on the programme by reducing the time required for administration, data collection and booking appointments. Specialist midwives are now able to support up to twice as many women and give them personalised support to quit.”

The platform has been developed in partnership with digital transformation specialists Objectivity Ltd., who are our strategic partners in Greater Manchester for digital healthcare technologies.

The Greater Manchester and Eastern Cheshire Patient Safety Collaborative, hosted by HInM, has also continued to support and embed the Greater Manchester Smokefree Pregnancy programme as part of the national Maternity and Neonatal Safety Improvement Programme aim of increasing the proportion of smoke-free pregnancies.

Smoking during pregnancy or inhaling second-hand smoke from others (known as passive smoking), can raise levels of carbon monoxide (CO) within the body. This poisonous gas can restrict the essential oxygen supply to the baby and significantly increase the risk of complications such as miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and stillbirth.

To find out more about the smokefree pregnancy digital platform watch a free webinar from partners Objectivity 

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