Pupils aged just TWELVE given nicotine patches by nurses on visits to schools without telling their parents
The patches are available to pupils from NHS nurses making fortnightly visits to schools in Essex Fears the patches could become a 'status symbol' among young schoolchildren
10:48 GMT, 24 January 2013
07:57 GMT, 25 January 2013
Addiction: The NHS has been dishing out nicotine patches to schoolchildren as young as 12, it has emerged (FILE PHOTO)
Nicotine patches are being handed out to schoolchildren as young as 12 on the NHS without their parents' knowledge, it has emerged.
Nurses employed by NHS South West Essex have been distributing patches to young pupils during fortnightly visits to schools, where they speak to children confidentially.
One mother said parents should have been consulted on the decision to hand out the powerful substitute patches.
Danielle Northcott, whose 13-year-old daughter attends a Basildon school where nicotine patches have been issued to pupils, said while they could help stop children becoming addicted, it was concerning that parents had not been informed.
Ms Northcott also said she feared the patches could become a 'status symbol' among schoolchildren.
'As parents I do think we should have been consulted on it and the school should have been clear about it,' said the 39-year-old, whose daughter Amaris is a student at Woodlands School in Takely End, Essex.
'Woodlands is a good school and even though I didn't know the nicotine patches were available, I would rather have that than a cigarette in her mouth,' said Ms Northcott, adding that the service was likely to 'divide opinion' among parents.
'Some parents will not agree with the meetings between the child and the nurse being confidential and it will divide opinion,' she said.
'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,' said Ms Northcott.
Woodlands School: One parent said she feared the nicotine patches could become a 'status symbol' among young pupils
NHS South West Essex employs health group Vitality to run the service.
which offers children advice on weight loss and wellbeing as well as
the dangers of smoking, also issues the patches to children at drop in
sessions across Basildon at the Laindon Health Centre, Pitsea Health
Clinic, and the Basildon Centre.
guidelines say children as young as 12 can access nicotine patches from
chemists and GPs throughout the country, but that it is at the
discretion of individual primary care trusts which services they offer.
White, headteacher at Woodlands School, admitted NHS nurses visited the
school, but denied the school was involved in dishing out the patches.
know nothing about this and as a school we are not giving out nicotine
patches, it is not our policy, but it might be NHS policy,' he said.
Advice: Encouraging young people to quit may help prevent them taking up smoking in the long term, the NHS says
have a nurse who comes into the school twice a month who is employed by
the NHS and pupils can talk to her if they wish to on an individual
see the nurse it is on a confidential basis and its a drop in session
type service. Parents should always know what is going on and our policy
is clear,' Mr White said.
a pupil is found smoking on site then there will be consequences and we
will always let the parents know, and we believe the problem should be
dealt with by the parents,' he added.
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 Clinical Excellence) guidelines.
'Some local young people who smoke approach our Vitality stop-smoking advisors for advice and support to quit.
'This support is provided by healthcare professionals such as school nurses or health improvement practitioners, and may include nicotine replacement therapy provided the young person is assessed as competent to consent to using this product.'
The spokesman said the use of NRT was always fully explained to any young person seeking help to quit smoking.
'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,' he said.