Hospital smoking policy not good enough

HOSPITAL bosses have come under fire for not enforcing the no-smoking policy outside its doors.

Despite providing a shelter opposite the main entrance, smokers regularly congregate outside Hinchingbrooke Hospital – prompting one visitor to complain.

Michael Coles, 69, said he has tried unsuccessfully to raise the matter with the hospital’s chief executive after failing to get a response to his correspondence from staff.

“I raised it with head office but they refused to respond,” he said. “They would not come back at all. It annoyed me – all I asked was are they looking at the problem? It is a hospital after all. We have a choice about these things – whether we want to smoke or not – but we don’t have a choice but to walk through the smokers’ second-hand smoke.”

He recounted seeing a patient with a highly-flammable oxygen cylinder smoking.

Mr Coles, of The Green, Woodwalton, wants Circle to address the problem and enforce their policy – if not a whole-site ban on smoking.

He said: “As you approach the entrances to the hospital there is a notice which clearly states ‘No smoking beyond this point’. I have written several times to the management asking why they allow smoking beyond this point and right up to the front doors. I don’t see why I have to tolerate breathing in second-hand smoke when entering a hospital. The only answer I got after several chases was to say that they clean the area now and again.

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“If this is a responsible authority I would have thought that it would not even hesitate to eliminate smoking on the site altogether.”

A spokesman for Hinchingbrooke said: “We acknowledge the concerns raised in relation to patients and visitors choosing to smoke near to our hospital’s main entrance and emergency care centre and the impact that this has on other people in the vicinity. Unfortunately, some smokers choose to stand immediately outside the hospital rather than using the smoking shelter provided, which causes problems with litter as well as unwanted smoke for others.

“As a trust, we previously had a smoking ban in place for the whole of the hospital site. During this smoking ban our staff did encourage anyone smoking outside the Main Entrance to move away from the hospital to smoke and to take away any rubbish. This was not always adhered to by patients or visitors, and in some cases, individuals became confrontational when asked to move. As a result, the trust decided to re-introduce the smoking shelter directly outside the Main Entrance.

“We take every opportunity to provide advice and support to patients who smoke in order to assist them with giving up.”

She said the area outside the main entrance is cleaned every day by cleaning contractors and periodically steamed cleaned.

She added: “The trust would like thank those members of the public who have brought this to our attention and we are currently reviewing our Smoking Policy to highlight areas where we can make further improvements. We will also be looking at our strategy for challenging those who don’t comply.”