SMOKERS who decline quitting help could be refused surgery as part of a new drive to reduce surgical complications.

The move will require smokers who are referred for elective surgery to attend at least one appointment with the Stop Smoking Service.

Health bosses say anyone who refuses that appointment may be refused surgery.

The changes - put forward by the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) - will not apply to referrals for suspected cancer or emergency surgery.

The proposal will avail of the Essex Lifestyle Service, which delivers a free lifestyle service for residents in north east Essex.

Lisa Llewelyn, director of nursing and clinical quality for North East Essex CCG, said: “Every cigarette causes serious harm to both smokers and their families.

“We know smokers have a higher risk of post-operative infection and have longer recovery rates.”

She added: “This positive change in policy will encourage people to take advantage of the free stop smoking support available locally, by working together with general practices and Essex Lifestyle Service to improve health outcomes.”

Ellen Van Gemmert, who leads the Essex Lifestyle Service, said: “We offer support and practical help that fits in with people’s lifestyle.

“We have various ways to help people to quit smoking for good.

“It doesn’t matter how someone gives up smoking; evidence shows they are four times more likely to be successful with support from a stop smoking service.”

She added: “Our specialist stop smoking support is flexible and tailored to individual needs.

“Our stop smoking advisors provide one-to-one support through face to face sessions, telephone or via the Stop Smoking App.

“A variety of stop smoking products can be prescribed, if they are needed.”

Smoking advisors will also offer advice on light-up triggers such as stress and food. For stop smoking advice, go to