A PIONEERING law to outlaw smoking outside all hospitals – and on all NHS grounds – is to be unveiled by a Yorkshire MP today.
Tracy Brabin says a blanket ban is needed to promote healthy living – and prevent staff from having to accompany patient, some seriously ill and attached to medical drips, to hospital entrances in order to light up.
The Batley and Spen MP, who is also the Shadow Minister for Early Years, sets out her case in an exclusive column for The Yorkshire Post.
She decided to act after it emerged that a neo-natal ward Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust cannot open its windows because of the risk of smoke from tobacco harming the health of new-born babies.
And while a speaker system has been introduced to remind smokers at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, to move to designated areas, Ms Brabin believes legislation is the only answer.
“In hospitals, the very places we go to recover from our ills, people smoke freely right outside the front door. To me it undermines the role of the hospital as a health promoter,” writes Ms Brabin who praises NHS chiefs in Wales for implementing a ban.
“Our hardworking and overstretched NHS staff are often asked to escort patients outside and wait with them while they smoke, often taking them away from important duties. Wheelchairs can be difficult to find as smokers are using them and volunteers who have given up their time are subject to complaints from members of the public.”
Ms Brabin, who was previously an actress in Coronation Street, says health education is critical as public awareness grows about the link between smoking and cancer.
“This is wider than simply installing ‘no smoking’ signs. It’s about creating a culture than is in favour of quitting,” she adds. “I want to see this legislation as part of a package that includes support for smokers to quit or abstain from smoking – and receive encouragement to do so while on hospital grounds.”
However Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, countered the MP, saying: “Introducing a law to ban smoking on hospital grounds would be an abuse of Parliamentary time.
“The overwhelming majority of NHS trusts already have smoke free policies that include on site smoking bans.
“Individual trusts, not high-minded politicians in Westminster, should be allowed to decide their policy on smoking and the extent to which they enforce a ban, partial or otherwise.
“A bill that bans smoking on NHS sites is no way to treat people who may be at their lowest ebb.”