IS LAW TO CHANGE TO ENABLE ENFORCEMENT OF NO SMOKING AROUND NOTTINGHAM'S HOSPITALS?

On Wednesday, 21 January, an article by Peter Blackburn and Sam Stubbs in the Nottingham Post reported that the QMC could soon be a no-go zone for smokers ...

Hospital chiefs want to change the law so that people caught smoking within their grounds could be prosecuted.

Queen's Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital are already "smoke-free"– but patients and staff can regularly nip out for a smoke.

Now Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust wants to change a by-law to make it illegal.

Existing legislation bans smoking outdoors in enclosed spaces but the trust hope this can be adapted to cover hospital sites so that smokers could be fined.

Its current ban is not legally-binding – staff can ask people not to smoke but cannot take legal action against them.

NUH chairman Louise Scull confirmed the trust was in talks with Nottingham City Council and said: "We take disciplinary action against staff who smoke on site. Our new security provider is challenging more smokers and sign-posting people to appropriate smoking cessation support services."

The move was welcomed by health experts. A by-law change requires the city council to apply for permission to change the law just for the hospital grounds – with the plans then signed off by Government.

Professor John Britton, smoking expert at the University of Nottingham, said he thought the hospital could be the first in the country to make smoking illegal.

"I think it's potentially a massive step forward and it is the right thing to do," he said. "One in five people who are admitted to hospital in Nottingham are smokers and many are admitted because of smoking-related disease. We can provide all the help in the world for people sitting in a ward but it is much harder for them to cope if they can look out the window and see groups of people standing by the entrance smoking cigarettes."

Martin Gawith, chairman of Healthwatch Nottingham – which represents patients – said: "I support the proposals – we do need to set better examples for future generations."

Patients and visitors at the QMC supported the plans. Medicine student Francesca Mortell, 20, of Lenton, said: "It would benefit the health of those ill patients that don't smoke and discourage those that do smoke."

Mununuri Bonjesi, 21, Lenton said: "Even passive smoking is bad for you, and it's not really fair on the patients that are against it and are trying to improve their health in a place that should be providing that."

And Claire Fletcher, 59, of the city centre, said: "I'm going later to visit my son and daughter but I'll have a cigarette before I go, and one where I get back home. There's no need to be smoking at the hospital."

But Simon Clark of pro-smoking group Forest said tax from cigarettes put billions into the economy.

He said: "Tobacco is a perfectly legal product and to ban lighting up in the open air seems utterly extraordinary."

Smokers caught smoking in enclosed outdoor public spaces or workplaces can already be fined up to £200.

Councillor Alex Norris, portfolio holder for health at Nottingham City Council said: "For obvious reasons it feels uncomfortable for people to be smoking in hospital grounds so we're very keen to support NUH in any ambitions to restrict smoking on and around their premises."

The Post says...

On any given day, it is likely that doctors' surgeries and hospitals across Nottinghamshire will have more than their fair share of people being treated for chest and heart complaints.

The problem is that many of them are not chest or heart complaints at all but conditions brought on by smoking. And they cost us a fortune.

It is against that background, with billions of pounds being spent nationally on treatments for such conditions, that Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust is trying to bring in a legally-enforceable ban on smoking anywhere on hospital premises.

Smoking inside hospitals has been off-limits for some time but the feeling was that if people wanted to smoke outside a confined space, that was their choice.

The trust disagrees, plainly feeling that it's daft to allow people visiting a site devoted to health services to indulge in a dangerously unhealthy activity.

There will be some people who think that the State should simply keep its legislative nose out of people's personal freedoms. But when those personal freedoms cost the taxpayer-funded NHS £5bn a year which it can ill afford, the greater good has to be considered.

The trust isn't forcing people to stop smoking. It is simply saying "not here". Nevertheless, it's doing so in forceful terms, proposing to change a byelaw which would make it possible to prosecute people alleged to have flouted the ban.

While this may seem heavy-handed to some, we suspect most people are more likely to wonder why the trust hasn't done this before.

MPs BACK NOTTINGHAM HOSPITAL CIGARETTE ACTION

A further article by Peter Blackburn in the Nottingham Post on Thursday, 22 January 2015 reported that ...

Politicians and health experts have backed plans to change a law which could see people caught smoking outside hospitals prosecuted.

The grounds of Queen's Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital are "smoke-free" but patients and staff can often be seen lighting up outside the doors. Now medics and managers at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the sites, wants to see if a by-law can be changed to make it illegal.

"We do need this kind of action," said Irfan Malik, a GP at Sherwood Health Centre. "It is a good idea that they stop smoking on hospital grounds. Smoking is one of the main things we focus on every day we see patients. It is a big problem, and an area we need to continue to strive to reduce smoking."

Legislation bans smoking outdoors in enclosed spaces but the trust hopes this can be adapted to cover hospital sites so that smokers could be fined. The current ban is not legally-binding – staff can ask people not to smoke but cannot take legal action against them.

Conservative MP for Broxtowe Anna Soubry said: "To a lot of people who attend hospital as a visitor or a patient, it seems very odd to see people standing outside the hospital having cigarettes, especially when they are a patient and they have a dressing gown around them. It does not seem right we should allow smoking on our premises."

MP for Nottingham East Chris Leslie said: "It's a good idea. I'm sympathetic to the ban and most people would accept that you should forgo lighting a cigarette while in the vicinity of a hospital, given the impact smoking has on the NHS bill. It's worth trying it out and seeing whether it makes a difference for people."

In Nottingham, 24 per cent of people are smokers – well above the national average of 19 per cent. The number of people who die from smoking-related causes is significantly higher in the city.

NUH chairman Louise Scull said: "In response to the strong views from patients, visitors and staff, we are determined to do more to tackle smoking. Our patients are leading our no smoking campaign, such is the strength of feeling. We are working with the city council to see what more we can do."

 


QMC's NEIGHBOURS ASK: WHAT ABOUT US?

Residents who live in the neighbourhoods around the QMC have been campaigning for years for action on to be taken to stop hospital staff, patients and visitors from using public areas, streets, and private gardens around the QMC as somewhere to go to smoke, leaving behind cigarette butts, discarded food and food packaging and other refuse. Whilst supporting the QMC in its efforts to improve the appearance of its Derby Road entrance area, residents have continued to criticise the QMC for 'dumping the problem' on its neighbours.

Any change of law making the current ban legally-binding must be extended to the streets and pavements alongside the QMC's curtilage.