RFDS partners with Cancer Council NSW partner to tackle tobacco use in rural and remote NSW

RFDS tackles tobacco use with Cancer Council NSW

Date published

10 May 2024

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is synonymous with lifesaving aeromedical retrievals across some of Australia’s most rural and remote locations.

Across NSW and beyond, the RFDS South Eastern Section (RFDSSE) also delivers a range of mental health and wellbeing services.

These services are offered at our Wellbeing Place hubs at Broken Hill, Cobar, Dubbo and Lightning Ridge, to the local community and surrounding towns.

The hubs provide a safe and welcoming environment for all people to access professional support and engage in activities to enhance or maintain their sense of wellbeing.

Addressing tobacco in the Wellbeing Places

Acting Operations Manager MHAOD Broken Hill, Kayelene Crossing, has seen first-hand how tobacco has affected her community’s mental health and wellbeing, so was keen to work with Cancer Council NSW to deliver its Tackling Tobacco program.  

“Tobacco is one of the main drugs of choice we see come through our door. People find it hard to give up, and many aren’t able to find the right support,” Kayelene said.

Cancer Council’s Tackling Tobacco program aims to reduce smoking related harm amongst priority populations in NSW that experience high levels of social and economic disadvantage. Through Tackling Tobacco, it is helping organisation’s like the RFDSSE address smoking and support people who access our services to quit for good. 

Tackling Tobacco

Throughout the one-year program, training was provided to almost all of our Alcohol & other Drug and Mental Health staff.

The training covered everything from how to provide advice around quitting smoking, through to correct use of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), and other support to help clients remain smoke-free.

“The staff really supported the program and are delivering Tackling Tobacco out in the remote communities,” Kayelene said.

The impact of Tackling Tobacco  

Not only were we proactive in ensuring our Wellbeing Place staff were offered training, but throughout Tackling Tobacco, we reviewed our Smoke Free Policy, expanding the scope and including vaping and use of e-cigarettes. We also updated smoke free signage to make it more visible to staff and clients.   

Through a grant provided by Cancer Council and by utilising an existing relationship with a local pharmacy in Dubbo, our steering committee were also able to purchase NRT at cost price, and from this were able to make up ‘quit kits’ for over 270 of our clients who were wanting support to quit.

These quit kits are being delivered to our clients not only in the four hub locations but across our entire footprint, which includes some of the most remote locations in NSW, covering a land mass of approximately 640,000 km².

“Thanks to the grant received by Cancer Council’s Tackling Tobacco team, our clinicians are now able to take NRT with them on our aeromedical outreach clinics including to remote communities such as Wilcannia, White Cliffs and Tibooburra,” Kayelene said.

Kayelene Crossing

And the results speak for themselves!

“One of our AoD clinicians was attending an outreach clinic in Wilcannia when an Aboriginal male self-presented to the emergency department complaining of chest pains after having a cigarette,” Kayelene explained.

“The patient was discharged after extensive tests were completed and referred to our GP clinic for follow up. The AoD Clinician was able to provide brief smoking cessation support which included facilitating access to NRT. The patient was provided with a pack of inhalers, lozenges and quick mist spray."

Kayelene said the patient had noticed a decline in his own health and had been told by his GP for a long time that it was related to his smoking, and he needed to quit.

“The patient also said he was quickly running out of breath and unable to keep up when playing with his young daughter and he wanted to be around for her as long as possible,” she said.

The training and support provided by Cancer Council’s Tackling Tobacco program ensured NRT could be offered to clients for free.

Through this partnership, we were able to build our capacity and offer smoking cessation support as part of our routine care.