GPs often lack time to provide intensive cessation advice for patients who smoke. This study aimed to determine the effectiveness of opportunistic referral of smokers by their GP for telephone cessation counselling by a trained nurse.
Adult smokers (n = 318) attending 30 GPs in South Western Sydney, Australia were randomly allocated to usual care or referral to a telephone-based program comprising assessment and stage-based behavioural advice, written information and follow-up delivered by a nurse. Self-reported point prevalence abstinence at six and 12 months was compared between groups. Characteristics of patients who accepted and completed the intervention were investigated.
Of 169 smokers randomised to the intervention, 76 (45%) consented to referral. Compared with smokers in 'pre-contemplation', those further along the stage-of-change continuum were significantly more likely to consent (p = 0.003). Those further along the continuum also were significantly more likely to complete all four calls of the intervention (OR 2.6, 95% CI: 0.8–8.1 and OR 8.6, 95% CI: 1.7–44.4 for 'contemplation' and 'preparation' respectively). At six months, there was no significant difference between groups in point prevalence abstinence (intention to treat) (9% versus 8%, p = 0.7). There was no evidence of differential intervention effectiveness by baseline stage-of-change (p = 0.6) or patient sex (p = 0.5). At 12 months, point prevalence abstinence in the intervention and control groups was 8% and 6% respectively (p = 0.6).
Acceptance of opportunistic referral for nurse delivered telephone cessation advice was low. This trial did not demonstrate improved quit rates following the intervention. Future research efforts might better focus support for those patients who are motivated to quit.
Australian Clinical Trials Registry number