Hospital sites across the south east are being urged to take steps to become tobacco-free to improve the health of their patients and staff.
This week Public Health England (PHE) Chief Executive Duncan Selbie has written to every NHS Trust Chief Executive asking them to implement a ban on smoking by patients, staff and visitors across all hospital buildings and grounds.
Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive at Public Health England said in his letter to NHS trusts:
“I am asking for your help to reach smokers who are in your hospital waiting rooms, consulting rooms and beds.
“By working together I believe we can make the NHS a place which provides a supportive tobacco-free environment for patients, staff and visitors”.
In the south east several trusts have led the way with smoking bans on hospital grounds, while many more are working with other organisations including their local authority public health teams towards going completely smoke-free in the future.
Despite declines in smoking prevalence over recent decades, 15.9% of adults in the south east still smoke and tobacco use remains the single largest cause of health inequalities and premature death. For every death caused by smoking, approximately 20 smokers are suffering from smoking related disease. While smoking during pregnancy is associate with a range of negative outcomes including miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and neonatal complications.
Peter Mellor, Director of Corporate Affairs at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Patients and visitors smoking outside of the entrances to the hospital has been a long-standing problem for the Trust and one that is very difficult to deal with, but unfortunately smoking outside of the hospital is not illegal and therefore is almost impossible to stop.
“The Trust has provided dedicated smoking shelters at both the main and the north entrance to the hospital to try and encourage those that insist on smoking, to do so in the shelters which are sited away from the immediate entrances to the hospital.
“Whilst most people are considerate enough to use the shelters, some are not and appear to be oblivious to the wellbeing and comfort of others, despite numerous ‘No Smoking’ signs around the site.
“However, we will not give up and will continue to try and persuade those who insist on smoking to at least move away from the main entrances and to use the smoking shelters that are provided. ”
Diana Grice, Director for Public Health England, South East, said: “In the South East of England smoking rates continue to fall across the region and are now the lowest on record at 15.9%. Tobacco sales are also in decline as record numbers of people quit smoking. This is good news but there is more work needed to encourage more smokers to kick the habit and give themselves a better chance of staying healthy and avoiding conditions such as lung and oral cancers, coronary heart disease (CHD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and strokes.
“PHE encourages the NHS to support every option to become smoke-free and discourage smoking in a bid to improve patient health. We will continue to work with local NHS partners to support them to make their premises and grounds completely smoke-free.