Many practices fail to ascertain whether or not their patients smoke, and fail to intervene when they do, research suggests.
Clinical guidelines recommend that systematically discovering the smoking status of GP practice patients should be a fundamental component of healthcare provision.
In a study published in the journal BMC Health Services Research, postal questionnaires were sent to all patients aged over 18 years from 24 general practices in Nottingham.
All patients were registered as a smoker or had "no smoking" status recorded in their medical notes.
Of the practices surveyed, the proportion of patients with a smoking status recorded varied from 42.4% to 100%.
Of the 6,856 patients who identified themselves as current smokers, 41.4% said they would like to talk to a specialist about quitting the habit.
The study authors commented: "While in many practices the ascertainment of smoking status is incomplete and/or inaccurate, failure to intervene appropriately on known status still remains the biggest challenge."
"Not only do we systematically enquire about patient's smoking status, I run a smoking cessation clinic at our Practice. I am the assistant practice manager at our practice, and an exsmoker. As a practice, we took the decision to send me for specialist training so that I could run a smoking cessation clinic. So far it has proved to be very popular and I take great pride in having helped a lot of our patients to quit smoking long term" – Gail Miles, Assistant Practice Manager, Birmingham