17 September 2021

Public Health Midwife Charlotte Winder, a newly appointed member of a specialists stop smoking team with Shelley Piper, the Head of Hospital Based Services within the Families and Integrated Community Care Division of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The number of Blackpool mums classed as smokers when they give birth has shown a dramatic decrease.

Up to 3,000 women give birth in Blackpool each year. The percentage classed as smokers once stood at 31 per cent. Now the figure is closer to 21 per cent and falling, making the resort one of the most improved areas in the country.

The success is down to the efforts of a dedicated nine-strong team who work closely with expectant mums to explain the health benefits of not smoking during pregnancy on their baby. Research shared by the Innovation Agency, the Academic Science Network for the north west coast, has helped provide the Blackpool team with additional insight to help mums make potentially life-changing decisions.

Shelley Piper, the Head of Hospital Based Services within the Families and Integrated Community Care Division of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, says the ability to offer bespoke support to mums based on evidence elsewhere has been key to achieving the downturn: “One way we support them to stop is by testing their carbon monoxide readings. Using a personal carbon monoxide monitor which connects to a smart phone, women can see and track their results using an app which is a good incentive and encourages them to continue. It’s a very individual, bespoke service which works.”

Public Health Midwife Charlotte Winder, a newly appointed member of the team, has worked in the area for 12 years and says the formation of this dedicated team has helped build confidence among patients and staff: “Working closely with the community teams means we get to know them as well as the patients to build the trust needed. The mums now know we’re using research to help them, not to tell them off, but to try and guide them to lead a better healthier life.”

She added: “I think a lot of it is fear about stopping smoking – how hard is it going to be, that ‘comfort’ being taken away at a time when they’re in a stressful situation is not easy. But having that trust and everyone singing off the same hymn sheet really helps.”

Coordinating meetings to share advice and ideas for the whole of the north west region is Paul Brain, the Innovation Agency’s project manager. Part of the national Maternity and Neonatal Safety Improvement Programme, he says this ability to act as a link between busy maternity teams is paying off: “Achieving smoke-free pregnancies is just one aspect of this work. The Innovation Agency are commissioned to work with the maternity and neonatal Trusts across the north west coast in improving the life chances of the pre-term infant and also the early recognition and management of deterioration of women and babies.”

“Blackpool’s statistics showing mums who were classed as smokers at the time they delivered have been as high as 31% so this reduction is a real step in the right direction.”

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has recently expanded the community midwife service to cover Wyre and Fylde. And while the demands faced by health workers to convince even more to quit cannot be underestimated there is growing confidence that the techniques being used will continue to pay off.

“This reduction doesn’t sound huge but it is a massive drop and we are leading the way in how far we have come,” Public Health Midwife Charlotte Winder says. “We’ve got an awful long way to go but with a bigger team that can focus on it we’re in a good position to make a difference.”

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