Hospitals urged to stop patients smoking outside entrances

Smokers outside the Calderdale Royal Hospital
Smokers outside the Calderdale Royal Hospital

Visitors to Calderdale Royal Hospital should not have to walk a gauntlet of smoking patients dressed in pyjamas and holding onto drips, according to new guidance.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says NHS hospitals should ban smoking on hospital grounds and staff should not help patients who want to smoke.

But, any final decision will lie with individual NHS trusts.

“Trusts should ensure there are no designated smoking areas, no exceptions for particular groups and no staff-supervised or staff-facilitated smoking breaks for people using secondary care services,” said Nice.

Instead, patients should be encouraged to stop smoking before planned admissions and stop-smoking drugs should be on hand to help people stop.

Professor Mike Kelly, of Nice, said the guidance was about a culture shift rather than creating a penal culture.

“It’s clearly absurd that the most lethal set of toxins to the human body are being passively encouraged in hospitals,” he said.

“Nearly 80,000 lives are lost each year due to smoking.

“We need to end the terrible spectacle of people on drips in hospital gowns smoking outside hospital entrances.”

Smoking is also responsible for around 460,000 hospital admissions in England every year and as most smokers don’t want to smoke when the opportunity arises to help those people that should be taken, according to Nice.

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust has yet to comment on whether it will crack down on smokers.

But, director Lesley Hill said it was committed to protecting people from smoke.

“In line with legislation we are smoke-free within our buildings and have provided smoking shelters away from the main entrances,” she said.

“Enforcement is carried out when smokers choose not to use the shelters.

“We are committed to finding a way to protect staff, visitors and patients from the effects of second-hand smoke and we work closely Calderdale Special Stop Smoking Service to provide support for both patients and staff.”

The Royal College of Nursing is supportive but said support services must be available and nursing staff should not be expected to enforce non-smoking policies.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, of the British Medical Association, said it was also supportive.

“Whilst we sympathise with patients or relatives, who may find comfort in smoking, it continues to be the lead cause of preventable death and hospital admissions and is therefore more important than ever that the NHS sets the example.“

Halifax MP Linda Riordan said the sight of smokers and drips outside the entrance to the Calderdale Royal Hospital was dreadful.

“At one time there would have been a designated area in a room for them,” she said.

“But smoking is an addiction. If a smoker goes into hospital that addiction does not stop.

“Getting people to stop smoking is the first priority and there should be more smoking cessation programmes.

Simon Clark, of smokers’ lobby group Forest, said NHS staff have a duty of care but that doesn’t include the right to nag or bully smokers to quit.

“Tobacco is a legal product and a lot of people smoke to relieve stress,” he said.

“It’s not only inhumane to ban patients from smoking outside hospitals, it’s almost impossible to enforce without installing CCTV and employing wardens.”