Headlines: January 26th, 2005

National Health Service Hospitals in England will get help today on becoming smoke free, with a new guide from the Health Development Agency designed to help them in putting a smoke free policy in NHS buildings into practice. The policy was set out in the public health white paper in November last year with the aim of protecting and improving the wellbeing of staff, patients and visitors.The HDA document “Guidance for smoke free hospital trusts” has been produced to help remove the dangers of second hand smoke, which has been shown to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. The hope is that making hospitals smoke free will also set an example to other large employers and workforces, particularly in health-related locations.

Sir Nigel Crisp, the Chief Executive of the NHS, has welcomed today’s guidance. He said the public health white paper, “Choosing Health”, announced that the NHS would become smoke free by the end of next year. The HDA guidance would be a key part of helping trusts to deliver this aim.

He added, “Just one example is that this will give a good opportunity for people working in hospitals to get free expert advice and support from the NHS Stop Smoking Services. I hope smoke free policies will help many people in their attempts to quit and thus improve their chances of living healthier lives.”

The new guidance says a smoke free NHS will mean smoking is not permitted anywhere within hospital buildings, so smoking rooms will not be allowed. Some NHS trusts, it says, have decided to include hospital grounds as well as buildings in their policies and this may be considered the ultimate standard to which all trusts might aspire to in the near future.

Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Health Development Agency, said three thousand people died each year as a result of breathing in other people’s cigarette smoke and as the UK’s largest employer, the NHS had a moral imperative to lead by example and promote the no smoking message and had a duty to protect the health and well being of staff and patients. “This new guidance will help trusts protect staff and patients from the dangers of smoking and also sets out to create an environment in which people feel able to quit smoking and receive the support necessary to succeed,” she added.

The guidance sets out the ‘Five Cs’ to implement a smoke-free policy in hospitals – Commit to the policy; Create the policy; ensure Cessation support is available and accessible; Communicate the policy and Consolidate the policy. The guide also includes contact details for health professionals who can offer advice on the issues of setting up and implementing a policy.