Children as young as 12 given nicotine patches on the NHS- which parental knowldege
Children as young as 12 are being given nicotine patches by NHS nurses at school- without the knowledge or permission from their parents.The patches are being distributed by nurses employed by NHS South West Essex who visit schools every fortnight and speak to the children confidentially.
NHS guidelines say children as young as 12 can access nicotine patches from chemists and GPs throughout the country, but it’s up to each primary care trust what services they offer.
Parents at one school in Basildon, Essex voiced concerns that parents weren’t being told about the service.
Danielle Northcott, 39, whose 13-year-old daughter Amaris is a pupil at Basildon with Woodlands School in Takely End, Essex, where patches are distributed, said: “Woodlands is a good school and even though I didn’t know the nicotine patches were available I would rather her have that than a cigarette in her mouth.
“As parents I do think we should have been consulted on it and the school should have been clear about it.
“Some parents will not agree with the meetings between the child and the nurse being confidential and it will divide opinion. The only thing that worries me is that the patches will become a status symbol and children could want them just to look cool in front of their friends.”
NHS South West Essex employs health group Vitality to run the service.
Vitality also offers children advice on weight loss and well-being and also issues the patches to children at drop in sessions across Basildon at the Laindon Health Centre, Pitsea Health Clinic, and the Basildon Centre.
New research shows that over 30 per cent of UK smokers keep their habit under wraps and more than 50 per cent say the person they most want to hide their habit from is their mother.
A spokesman for North East London NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Vitality service, said: “Encouraging young people to quit smoking may prevent them from taking up the habit longer term, and so it is important they have somewhere to find confidential support for this.
“NHS stop smoking support is provided locally by GPs, community pharmacies and specialist stop smoking services, who are able to offer a range of advice and support on stopping smoking to people aged 12 and over, in line with NHS and NICE (National Institute of Curbing Expenditure) guidelines.
“This support is provided by healthcare professionals such as school nurses or health improvement practitioners, and may include nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) provided the young person is assessed as competent to consent to using this product.
“The use of NRT is fully explained to the young person. We always encourage young people to inform their parents or carers if they are having support with quitting smoking or having NRT, but they are not obliged to do so.”
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