YORK MP Rachael Maskell has branded the treatment of smokers in York as “incredibly judgemental” after a national charity said GPs have been asked not to prescribe stop smoking medications.

A report by the British Lung Foundation said support to help smokers quit is a “postcode lottery".

The charity highlighted Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) as a health body that “no longer directly funds stop smoking prescriptions” and said GPs have been asked not to prescribe treatments because of cost.

As a result, the number of prescriptions for stop smoking medication fell by 64 per cent in one year.

But a spokeswoman for Vale of York CCG, which pays for NHS services in York, said that stop smoking services are the council’s responsibility.

In 2017 the CCG introduced a policy to delay non-life-threatening surgery for smokers for up to six months unless they stop smoking for at least two months.

York Central MP Ms Maskell said: “I find it incredibly judgemental - it is like they are pointing the finger at smokers but not lifting a finger to help them.

“It’s disgraceful that the CCG will not fund stop smoking services while at the same time denying access to surgery. This has an impact on socially deprived areas because people will not be able to afford these treatments.

“People have made lifestyle choices for all sorts of reasons and we should support them to stop smoking.”

Alison Cook, director of policy at the British Lung Foundation said all smokers should have access to support and medication to help them quit.

She added: “Our report shows that for patients in the city of York, services are only open to people in a priority group. GPs have been told not to prescribe due to cost implications for the CCG. The free nicotine replacement therapy voucher scheme in the area has also stopped.

“This leaves some smokers without any support to stop smoking. The postcode lottery for treatment needs to end, and it must not be forgotten that tobacco dependency is an illness that requires urgent treatment.”

The charity added that cutting smoking cessation treatments will only achieve short-term savings but lead to “a greater burden” on the NHS.

Figures released to The Press following a Freedom of Information request show that the number of people accessing City of York Council’s stop smoking programme has also fallen dramatically, from 945 residents in 2014 to just 68 people in 2017.

A spokeswoman for the CCG said: "The responsibility for tobacco control including stop smoking services, prevention activity, enforcement and communications was transferred to local authorities in 2012-13 when CCGs came about."

She added: "CCGs have not had responsibility for smoking cessation since 2012-13 aside from interventions in secondary care and maternity care."

Fiona Phillips, assistant director of public health at City of York Council, said: “Smoking remains an important public health issue, though smoking prevalence in York is well below the average for England.

“We know that our most vulnerable communities are most at risk of smoking and we do fund short term prescriptions to help people stop smoking if they are pregnant or on a low income. We work closely with health teams across the city to ensure that anyone requiring support to stop smoking can access advice and support through our YorWellbeing service.”

Visit yorwellbeing.org.uk for more information.