As part of the NHS’s quest to become fully smoke-free, all hospitals will ban smoking by April 2020. The ban comes after a Public Health report earlier this year revealed that 69% of NHS Acute sites have already banned smoking on hospital grounds, meaning 31% are still yet to do so.
The ban would see all patients, visitors and staff banned from smoking on all parts of the hospital grounds; including car parks. This ban on smoking on hospital sites follows the current government pledge for a smoke-free country by 2030.
Hospitals will ban smoking but can they enforce it?
The ban is arguably hard to enforce and, in a survey, almost all the hospitals that currently ban smoking admitted that the measures were not always enforced. A £50 fine will be in place for anybody caught smoking on the grounds. However, with the strain on the NHS, it’s hard to imagine that measures will be put in place to ensure that this is policed efficiently.
Hospitals are prime places to target smokers and help them. In 2017/2018, there were 489,300 hospital admissions attributable to smoking (4% of all hospital admissions) and 77,800 deaths (16% of all deaths), according to the Government Statistical Service. These patients can therefore be identified and given specialised support at the most important time of all.
There are a number of alternatives for smokers to help them ditch cigarettes for good. Smoking Patients will be offered Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs) as part of this initiative in an effort to further eliminate smoking on site.
How will vaping be affected?
NHS sites are becoming much more positive towards vaping. In recent years, some hospitals have erected specific vaping shelters and West Bromwich and Birmingham City Hospital have gone one step further and now have vape shops within the hospital buildings.
Vaping is now recognised as the most popular quitting aid and studies at the beginning of 2019 showed e-cigarettes to be considerably more effective than traditional NRTs like patches and gum. Doctors and GPs have therefore become much more likely to endorse e-cigarettes as a cessation aid. There have even been reports of medical practitioners allowing patients to vape in their hospital rooms.
However, there is still a lot of work to do to help vaping reach its full potential in a hospital environment. In March, one survey showed that 55% of sites ban vaping on the grounds. More concerning research was published in November which explored medical professionals’ attitudes towards e-cigarettes. The results showed that 35.9% of nurses and 25.7% of nurses were unsure as to whether vaping was beneficial when compared with smoking.
So, should more be done by the NHS to help ensure these professionals are correctly informed about the UK’s most popular quitting aid? The nurses certainly think so, as 78.2% reported that they would like more training.
While work does still need to be done, it’s good to see the NHS employing forward thinking initiatives to help combat smoking rates. Rates are at the lowest since records began, now sitting at 14.4%. However, for the government to reach its target of becoming smoke-free, the rate must drop below 5%.
Do you think this target is achievable? Let us know in the comments below.