By Ian Dipple Wednesday 27 November 2013 Updated: 02/12 19:57
SMOKING within the grounds or buildings of the county's three main hospitals is to be banned within three years.
The ban will apply to staff, volunteers and contractors only in the first instance with the ambition to make all of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust's sites smoke free by 2015/16.
Smoking shelters near to hospital entrances, such as the one just yards from the front door of the Alexandra Hospital, will be moved elsewhere to minimise the impact on patients and visitors.
The move is in response to a call by the Smoke Free Worcestershire Alliance for the Trust to implement a ban and an increasing number of complaints from staff and patients about smoking near and around the entrances to the Worcestershire Royal, the Alexandra Hospital and Kidderminister Treatment Centre.
No smoking signs are already displayed around the three sites and smoking near entrances is already banned but the Trust admit they do not currently have the staff or money to enforce the rules.
The Trust has spent months looking at various ways of discouraging people from smoking at its three hospitals including talking to Blackpool Hospitals NHS Trust which has successfully introduced a total ban, but it required significant investment.
Bev Edgar, director of human resources, said a partial ban would allow time to prepare staff, examine how it would be enforced and invest in improving the stop smoking service which currently only has one full-time member of staff allocated to it.
"If you rush too quickly it will drive smoking underground," she told a Trust board meeting on Wednesday (November 27).
"From our own approach, we believe starting with this is a good build up.
"We need our staff to be champions and be able to challenge the public at some point to make them aware it's now a smoke free site so I don't think we can just rush into something like that."
But Andrew Sleigh, a non-executive director, said he could not support a total ban as it would impinge on people's freedom of choice.
"It's a sensible compromise not to have staff smoking but for relatives in times of distress, to prevent them from smoking at all, I'm uncomfortable about that."
But the board were told new guidance from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence recommended a total ban and it could potentially be built into the Trust's contract from next year.
Coun David Tibbutt, a member of Smoke Free Worcestershire Alliance, called the move a very significant step forward but added he would continue to push for a total ban.
"I'm disappointed it hasn't been extended to patients because after all it's the patients in the hospital that in a sense are at greatest risk," he said.
"We really must give the right message, this is a start and I'm very pleased to hear it."
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