NHS told to stop turning 'blind eye' to smoking

 
Smoking patient The guidance applies to hospitals and mental health units

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The NHS must stop turning a "blind eye" to smoking and ban it in all hospital grounds in England, according to new guidance.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said it wanted to see smoking shelters scrapped so patients, visitors and staff could not light up.

Staff should also stop helping patients out of their beds to go for a smoke.

And patients who smoke must be identified and offered help to quit, the guidance added.

It said nurses, doctors and other staff could give brief advice and then refer smokers on to NHS stopping smoking services.

Smoking rates are particularly high among mental health patients with one in three smoking, rising to 70% in psychiatric units.

That compares with the one in five among the general population who are smokers.

How one hospital in Cambridge has struggled to stub out smoking

The guidance, which is voluntary for the NHS to follow, even suggested staff caught smoking should be disciplined.

'Too long'

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) conceded some parts of the NHS had already adopted these approaches, but said the idea of the guidance was to make sure it became consistent across the health service.

NICE public health director Prof Mike Kelly said the NHS had turned a "blind eye" for too long.

"It has been tolerated by the NHS and it is high time that stopped.

"NHS hospitals and staff have a duty of care to protect the health of people who use or work in their services.

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

In practice, he said, doctors and nurses could provide nicotine replacement therapies and advise patients about counselling to ensure they were not "going up the wall" with nicotine cravings.

He acknowledged that stopping a determined smoker from going outside to light up was "clearly very difficult".

"This is not about imposing some sort of penal regime in which doctors, nurses, administrators spend all their time trying to enforce a series of rules and regulations."

He said it was about a culture shift and removing smoking shelters would help eliminate any subliminal message that it was ok to smoke around a hospital.

Stress relief

Stephen Dalton, of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS trusts, said the guidance was welcome.

"A total ban on smoking complements the duty of care on healthcare staff and the organisation to protect the health of people in their care and promote healthy behaviour."

Dr John Moore-Gillon, a lung specialist, said there was no doubt that smoking rates fell in environments where it was banned, pointing to smoking bans in pubs, clubs and public buildings.

"And they're actually more likely to give up smoking if they're given this advice when they're in a hospital or other health care setting," he added.

But Simon Clark, of smokers' lobby group Forest, said: "NHS staff have a duty of care to protect people's health, but that doesn't include the right to nag, cajole or bully smokers to quit.

"Tobacco is a legal product and a lot of people smoke to relieve stress.

"It's not only heartless and inhumane to ban patients from smoking outside hospitals and clinics, it's almost impossible to enforce without installing CCTV cameras and employing wardens to monitor the grounds."

 

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  • rate this
    +95

    Comment number 252.

    My local hospital has a shelter for smokers. It's 20-30 metres away from the main entrance and off to the side of the car park so no one has to walk past it unless they choose to.
    Still people stand just outside the doors but Hospital security are very good at moving people to the smoking shelter.
    Perfectly fair way to deal with the issue.

  • rate this
    +87

    Comment number 6.

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

    - I agree. So lets have smoking rooms or shelters and treat people like adults who are partaking of a legal product. They have it in Berlin so why not here?

  • rate this
    +83

    Comment number 15.

    Much as I dislike smoking I would find it hard to tell a terminally ill patient that it was bad for their heath and they must desist. I also question the cost of smoking related deaths. We all die, surely those who die prematurely collect less in pensions.

  • rate this
    +76

    Comment number 3.

    "The guidance, which is voluntary for the NHS to follow, even suggested staff caught smoking should be disciplined."

    "This is not about imposing some sort of penal regime ..."

    Make up your mind Prof Kelly!

  • rate this
    +73

    Comment number 25.

    I like the idea of offering patients help to stop smoking if they want it, I don't like the idea of forcing an ill, frightened and often stressed out patient to stop smoking whilst they are in hospital, indeed we could perhaps make it a more comfortable experience for them by providing smoking rooms again.

 

Comments 5 of 971

 

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