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Hospitals smoking ban goes too far, says Carlisle councillor

A councillor believes hospitals should be allowed to put up smoking shelters, rather than being forced to ban lighting up completely.

No smoking sign photo
No smoking signs at the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle

Elsie Martlew, deputy leader of Carlisle City Council, fears a heavily-enforced ban will push patients and staff out on to neighbouring streets, causing litter problems.

She is calling for a sensitive, common sense approach to controversial new guidelines published yesterday.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said the NHS must stop ‘turning a blind eye’ to smoking and ban it on all hospital grounds in England.

It wants to put an end to patients being helped from their beds to stand outside hospitals smoking, and said those who do smoke should be identified and helped to stop.

But opponents argue that hospital patients and visitors are often dealing with difficult news, and being told to stub out their cigarette at a difficult time would be insensitive.

A national ban on smoking both inside and outside NHS hospitals came into force in 2007. But how far it is policed varies from trust to trust.

Bosses at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital have tried to take a tough stance in the past.

They even introduced no-smoking patrols at one point, but concluded that a ban was virtually impossible to police as they had no real powers.

Former chief executive Carole Heatly said she had been met with abuse when pointing out the ban to patients.

Mrs Martlew said the ban had also caused problems for residents in neighbouring areas, particularly Clift Street, which is connected to the city infirmary via an alleyway. However problems subsided as the trust relaxed its stance.

“When it first came in we had a lot of problems with staff and patients using that area to smoke in. There was fag ends and ash everywhere.

“I don’t want to see a return to that,” she said.

“Being a non-smoker I don’t understand what a cigarette craving is like but I know they say it can help at times of anxiety. To enforce this would seem quite heartless.

“I would prefer to see more focus on helping people to stop smoking, rather than just saying ban it completely.”

A trust spokeswoman admitted that policy has been difficult to enforce.

Reacting to the guidance, she added: “We welcome any moves that will support hospitals to create a smoke-free environment as all patients, visitors and staff have a right not to be exposed to the effects of cigarette smoke while moving around the hospital.

“We do have a policy and coming into hospital presents many patients with an ideal opportunity to stop smoking.

“Patients who smoke are made aware of our policy on arrival to the ward and our staff do ensure that smokers are aware of the restrictions that are to be adhered to on the premises. It is, however, sometimes difficult to enforce within the grounds despite the signs we have around our buildings.”

Have your say

'Did you know that more non-smokers die than smokers?', according to shock and awe, posted on 9th December.

Yes that is true, because there are more non-smokers than smokers, its a statistical fact!

Posted by Geoff S on 27 December 2013 at 11:46

What is heartless is people who are ill also newborn babies, being forced to inhale smoke from people smoking at the front door. If cumbria nhs is not going to have blanket ban on smoking at least ban smoking at the front door and have a designated area.

Posted by Louise on 24 December 2013 at 13:42

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