£2.7m spent every year in Hartlepool to care for smokers

Debbie Myles with Denham Thomas
Debbie Myles with Denham Thomas
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MORE than £2.7m is being spent a year in Hartlepool on caring for smokers aged over 50 who have been blighted by the effects of lighting up.

MORE than £2.7m is being spent a year in Hartlepool on caring for smokers aged over 50 who have been blighted by the effects of lighting up.

Ailsa Rutter

Ailsa Rutter

That’s nearly £1,400 for each of the 1,996 people aged over 50 in town who needed care in their own homes because of the effects of smoking.

The figures come as Hartlepool woman Debbie Myles spoke openly about how smoking has left her partner Denham Thomas dependent on her for many everyday tasks.

The true figure could be much higher because there are no figures at all for what councils spend to support people aged under 50.

A breakdown of the figures, which were released by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), showed:

• There are 99 smokers aged over 50 in Hartlepool who are dependent on the state for social care. The cost of that is £1.6m - or £16,124 per person.

• Another £1.1m is spent on care by smokers in Hartlepool themselves after their health has been affected.

• Smokers over 50 are twice as likely to need help with day-to-day living. On average, they need care nine years earlier than non-smokers.

The true figure could be much higher because there are no figures at all for what councils spend to support people aged under 50.

ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott said: “Local authorities are facing a financial squeeze that makes effective and targeted spending on prevention all the more important.”

Ailsa Rutter is the director of Fresh which was set up in the North East in 2005 to tackle the worst rates of smoking related illness and death in England.

She said: “Smoking kills one in two long term smokers early, but smoking related disease can result in years of life-limiting disability before it results in death.”

After being diagnosed with smoking-related Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in his mid-fifties, Denham Thomas, from Hartlepool, has had to rely on the caring support of his partner, Debbie Myles.

For Debbie, who celebrates her 50th birthday in October, she no longer has a life outside of caring for Denham, 62.

She said: “It’s been heart-breaking to watch him get worse over the years and when I look at him sat in his wheelchair struggling to breathe through his oxygen tank, it’s hard to believe that he was once this strong young man who loved sports.

“He gets really depressed sometimes and I can see in his eyes how angry he is with what smoking has done to him.

“It’s really sad to say because I wouldn’t want anyone else to take care of him, but I’m not his partner anymore - I’m his carer and I’ve got to look after his every personal need. He still prefers to clean himself, but I do everything else; from helping him to put on his clothes; making his meals; washing his hair; and driving him around. It can be extremely tiring.

“We don’t get out that much as a couple anymore which I really miss and even when we do, having to plan everything around making sure his oxygen tank is full even before stepping out the front door can be so frustrating.

“I suppose I’m hardened to the effects of COPD now because I’ve had to deal with the horrendous choking fits for so long, but nothing can prepare you for how frightening it is to see someone close to you struggling to breathe. It’s such an awful experience because whilst he’s gasping for every breath and his lips are going blue, all I can do is watch because if try to help it only makes the situation worse.”

Denham and Debbie don’t receive any financial support or care support from Hartlepool Council so they are shouldering the financial burden of Denham’s care,

A further breakdown of the figures shows;

• The total spend on social care in County Durham - for smoking adults aged over 50 - was £13m.

• The total local authority spending on social care for smoking adults aged over 50 in County Durham, was £7.5m.

• And another £5.5m was spent on care by smokers themselves.

• The total spend on social care in the North-East - for smoking adults aged over 50 - was £64m on 50,000 people.

• The total local authority spending on social care for smoking adults aged over 50 in the North-East was £36.7m - and smokers spent £27m on care themselves.