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WellSouth call centre supporting general practices to meet smoking cessation targets

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Working on behalf of general practices in its primary health network, WellSouth is reaching out to patients who smoke, offering them advice and support to quit.

“We all recognize that stopping smoking is the best thing people can do for their health, but it is not easy and it’s understandable that people need a little help,” says Andrew Swanson-Dobbs, WellSouth CEO. “WellSouth call centre is supporting practices to support their patients by providing by reaching out and offering referrals to  the Southern Stop Smoking Service. We want to support for Māori, Pacific Island and high needs population in particular.”

So far, 25 practices have accepted WellSouth’s offer of smoking cessation support and nearly 1000 calls have been made in the four weeks since call centre staff started its work in this area.

WellSouth’s Mary Windle, who began making smoking cessation calls on behalf of Broadway Medical and Mornington Health Centre on 13 November, says people have been very appreciative of the extra effort their general practice teams are making to help them.

“We say we are calling on behalf of their GP and offer free help to stop smoking,” she says. “Some people we speak with have already stopped smoking, some people decline our offer and many accept the help. But no matter what everyone has said ‘thanks’ for making the call, so it feels very worthwhile.”

The Ministry of Health sets national targets for smoking cessation brief advice in primary care. In the last few months, the rate for this region has dropped below the rest of the country.

Stephen Graham, WellSouth medical director, says COVID-19 and catching up after lockdown are among the contributing factors for the decline.

“General practice teams are busier than ever,” he says. “Practices continue to do almost all COVID testing in the region while catching up on missed appointments and treatments, immunisation programmes and more.

“WellSouth has provided this kind of temporary support in the past and we are pleased to be able to do it again.”

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