Experts’ views on translating NHS support to stop smoking in pregnancy into a comprehensive digital intervention

Lisa McDaid, Pippa Belderson, Joanne Emery, Tim Coleman, Jo Leonardi-Bee, Felix Naughton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many pregnant smokers need support to quit successfully. In the United Kingdom, trained smoking cessation advisors deliver structured behavioural counselling alongside access to free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT); known as the ‘Standard Treatment Programme’ (STP). Pregnant smokers who access STP support are more likely to quit, but uptake is low. A digital intervention could be offered as an adjunct or alternative to existing STP support to increase cessation rates. However, there are few pregnancy-specific digital options routinely available and, among those that are, there is limited evidence of their effectiveness. This study investigated experts’ views on the feasibility of translating the STP into a comprehensive digital intervention. Virtual group and individual interviews were undertaken with 37 experts (11 focus groups, 3 interviews) with a real-time voting activity in the focus groups to prompt discussion. Framework Analysis was applied to the data to examine themes and patterns. Experts were supportive of a digital translation of the STP and considered most behavioural counselling content to be transferable. However, replicating human-to-human accountability, empathy and the ability to go ‘off-script’ was thought more challenging. Suggestions for how this might be achieved included tailoring and personalisation, use of artificial intelligence tools, peer support and the option to escalate contact to a human advisor. Experts had mixed views on the role that exhaled breath carbon monoxide monitoring might have in a digital cessation intervention for pregnancy. Electronic provision of free NRT, and potentially e-cigarettes, without interpersonal support was generally well received. However, experts had concerns about it exacerbating low NRT adherence, governance issues (e.g. being accountable for the suitability of recommended products), and people’s ability to misrepresent their eligibility. The STP was considered largely transferable to a digital intervention and potentially helpful for cessation in pregnancy, so merits further development and evaluation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0000472
JournalPLOS Digital Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2024

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