Ealing Khat Project Recognised

Smokefree Ealing wins national awards

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An Ealing project to teach communities about the dangers of the plant khat has been recognised at an awards ceremony.

Smokefree Ealing and Abdi Ali, an advisor at the service, won a Department of Health ‘celebrating public health excellence’ award this week, in recognition of outstanding work on the Ealing khat project.

The successful project followed the ban and re-classification of the narcotic leaf khat as a class C controlled drug in June 2014.

Before the ban, the use of khat, was common place amongst communities from the Horn of Africa and Yemen, and was being used widely in parts of Ealing. The leaf is chewed socially and although milder than alcohol, is a highly addictive drug that can have severe side effects such as psychotic episodes. This is particularly prevalent in chewers who already have existing mental health problems.

The project run by the West London Mental Health Trust involved working with members of the Somali community, in Ealing, and educating them about the harmful nature of khat and supporting them with khat abstinence whilst directing people to local NHS addiction services.

Dr Jackie Chin, Ealing Council’s director of public health, who supported the nomination said:

“We have heard first-hand the negative effect Khat use can have on mental health and family life. So as commissioners of this project we are delighted to learn that its success has been acknowledged by the Somali community it was set-up to support. 

“I would like to join Ealing’s Somali community in thanking the Smokefree Ealing team for their hard work and dedication.”

In December 2014, the Smokefree Ealing service, which is run by West London Mental Health Trust, was also nominated and won the national healthcare provider award at the national HAYA Somali community awards.

Johnny Nota, service manager at Smokefree Ealing, attended both award ceremonies and said:

“I am delighted that the hard work of our team has been recognised so much recently. Abdi has done amazing work in the Ealing community with the khat project. 

“I’m also particularly happy with the HAYA Somali award which was voted by the Somali community, recognising the effectiveness of Smokefree Ealing projects in delivering to a perceived ‘hard to reach’ community”.

Like a number of other NHS organisations, preparations are ongoing at West London Mental Health Trust to become smoke-free from 2016. Our preparations include offering service users and staff advice and opportunities to help them quit.

Medical director, Dr Nick Broughton, said: “People who have a serious mental illness die on average 15-20 years earlier than the rest of the population. And many of these lost years are due to smoking.

“Reducing smoking in mental health services is therefore a vital part of improving people’s quality and length of life. We are now working with our patients, service users and staff to agree how we can become smoke-free across all of our sites.”


11th March 2015