Better Care

End of the line for smoking habit

Construction workers at a flagship development in the centre of Birmingham are laying the foundations of healthier lifestyles thanks to a groundbreaking partnership with the citywide stop smoking service.

Stop smoking advisors are holding weekly lunchtime clinics in the city headquarters of Mace, lead contractor on the Birmingham Gateway Project, which comprises the redeveloped New Street station and the new Grand Central shopping destination.

Onsite occupational nurse Allison Rose, of Duradiamond Healthcare, says that with up to 1,000 workers from more than 30 contractors onsite during peak activity, the project represents an excellent opportunity to provide the extended support would-be quitters need.

“It’s quite unusual to have occupational health onsite in the construction industry but Mace decided to offer that service on this project simply because of the number of people involved,” Allison explained.

“I’m here to offer treatment for any minor health and medical issues that crop up but it’s a great opportunity to offer preventative advice and support to promote healthier lifestyles.

Birmingham Gateway project stop smoking partnership
Pictured (left to right) at the Birmingham Gateway Project site: Gurjinder Doulay, Birmingham stop smoking service community engagement worker Mark Akhurst, Mace logistics manager Allison Rose, onsite occupational health nurse, of Duradiamond Healthcare.

“I was the smoking cessation manager when I was a GP practice nurse so I know the potential if you can get the right messages to the right people at the right time and place.

“When I first started here, I saw the number of people who smoke was quite high, which is fairly typical in the construction industry.

“So I did a survey and found that about 29 per cent of people onsite at any time were smokers. I contacted the Birmingham stop smoking service and they came along to a health seminar and had quite a lot of interest. So we teamed up for the Stoptober campaign and the weekly clinics followed on from that.”

By the end of January, the number of people who had accessed the service was approaching 100  and well over half had managed to stay tobacco-free for at least four weeks – the accepted minimum to deem a quit attempt successful.

Mace logistics manager Mark Akhurst managed to kick a 20-a-day habit with the help of the Stoptober campaign and has stayed ‘quit’ since.

“Smoking has been part of the culture of the workplace in the construction industry,” he said.

“I smoked about 20 a day for years and had no intention of giving up – you associate it with your break-time and it’s difficult to break that habit.

“But when the support is there regularly at work and you see more and more of your workmates giving it a go, it works very well.”

Stop smoking service manager Carol Carter said: “Giving up smoking is not easy for anyone but it can be particularly difficult if your friends and workmates smoke.

“We know that the right professional help and support at the right time can make a huge difference, in fact it can make you around four times more likely to stop than with will power alone.

“We’re delighted that this partnership with Mace has proved so successful and would urge other employers to get in touch with us if they are interested in providing a similar service for their staff.”

For friendly advice and support on how to quit, call the Birmingham stop smoking team on 0800 052 5855 free or text 'QUIT' to 80800.