3 Jan 2018, 10:17 a.m.

We appeal to smokers to take their cigarettes well away from our buildings and grounds, and hope that they will consider others before they light up.

Despite clear communication advising that our sites, including our grounds, are non-smoking, we do receive complaints each month about patients or visitors smoking, particularly at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

We understand that it’s really frustrating and unpleasant for patients to be forced to come through a cloud of smoke on their way into the hospital and we have employed a number of initiatives over the years to help to combat this issue. This affects both sites (where we have multiple entrances and exits) but is particularly visible outside the tower entrance at GRH, where unfortunately a small number of patients and visitors do not acknowledge our requests not to smoke on our sites. While it is a small number, they are a very visible minority who affect a number of others with their actions.

We cannot currently fine people who smoke on our sites; without legislation to back us up, we have to rely on the courtesy and consideration of smokers not to light up, and despite extensive signage, people still ignore the policy. We do have other measures in place, including:

• All our patients are given support to quit smoking on admission (and before admission), and can be prescribed nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) at any time to help them during their stay.

• Every ward has a sign at the exit advising them that leaving to smoke is contrary to medical advice and directing them to support to quit or manage their habit. Some patients choose to ignore these even when they are verbally reinforced by nursing or medical staff, and it can be that they insist on leaving the ward.

• We used to encourage members of staff to challenge smokers who ignore the signs but unfortunately this can provoke a very negative and/or aggressive reaction, which understandably makes busy colleagues reluctant to continue asking people to put out their cigarettes or move away from entrances.

• We recently gained some charitable funding which allowed us to replace all the smoking signage across both sites which contained out of date and confusing information. Our new signs use images of real people with direct messages appealing to smokers, which research has shown to be more effective. We have had this in place since November; the signage has been targeted at ‘hotspots’ around the sites where we know that smokers do gather.

In addition we are exploring the possibility of a covered area further away from the doors to draw smokers (who elect to ignore the clear signage) away from the entrances which whilst not ideal is a pragmatic response to the concerns and expectations on non-smokers. Advice to support quitting will also be available in these areas.

Chief Executive Deborah Lee explains: “As an NHS organisation, we are absolutely committed to improving the health of local people. Smoking is an important contributory factor in a range of diseases, including heart disease, respiratory disease and a number of cancers.

“A priority for us is to draw attention to the support that is available to help smokers to manage their habit or to quit. Patients at both hospitals can be referred to the Healthy Lifestyles Service (HLS) for support, and can also be prescribed nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to help them manage their cravings during their hospital stay.

“We appeal to smokers to take their cigarettes well away from our buildings and grounds, and hope that they will consider others before they light up.”