Staff at Blackpool Victoria Hospital have been criticised after a picture emerged of three of them smoking outside the maternity unit.
The photograph contradicts efforts made by chiefs to stamp out the bad habit, which include bringing in a new service that sees ‘specialist advisers’ targeting smokers admitted to the Whinney Heys Road hospital.
The partner of a female patient, who has been “in and out of” the Vic, said she was “disgusted” to see patients being told off for smoking when she has seen “nurses and staff” smoking in an alleyway near the women and children’s department.
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He said: “Putting a coat on, as most do, doesn’t hide the fact they are nurses, and she is told it doesn’t happen at this hospital - that all staff leave the premises.
“Actually, nope, they smoke next to maternity in the alleyway.”
The hospital, in Whinney Heys Road, threatened to discipline the staff involved. Its deputy chief executive Tim Bennett said: “As part of our smoke-free policy, staff are not permitted to smoke while in uniform or anything identifying them as a member of staff on our sites.
“If any member of staff continues to breach our policy and smoke within our grounds, or smoke while in uniform, they would be subject to the normal disciplinary procedures.
“Help is available to support staff who are smokers to quit, or at least seek support to help remain smoke-free during the day while at work on health care grounds.”
Vic chiefs have previously admitted they were powerless to stop patients from lighting up, despite the impact on their health and the NHS’s shallow pockets.
Smoking costs the health service around £12.9 billion a year nationally, while Blackpool has one of the highest smoking rates in the country and tops the national league of shame for smoking-related hospital admissions.
Marie Thompson, the former director of nursing and quality, told colleagues it was a “challenge” for staff to prevent patients from going outside for a puff at a meeting last year.
“Not only [is smoking] against trust policy, the patients were outside in cold weather wearing only bed clothes,” she said.
The new stop-smoking service for in-patients, which was launched earlier this year, sees specialist advisers contacting those who smoke during their stay to offer “support, including nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)”, hospital documents showed.
“If applicable, patients are discharged and limited supply of NRT and offered follow-up contact and referral or signposting to community-based stop smoking service.”
On its website, the Vic said “smoking is not allowed in any area of the trust, including buildings, doorways, grounds, and car parks”, and said it “does not want our patients, visitors, and employees to be exposed to secondhand smoke while on our site”.
It added: “We don’t have designated smoking areas as we are a completely smoke-free hospital site. As part of the NHS we need to ensure we are promoting positive health messages.
“Having shelters anywhere onsite condones smoking and gives out the message to patients and visitors that it is acceptable behaviour.”
And in April, several buttons were installed at the hospital - including outside the maternity unit - that, when pushed, play a recorded tannoy message that tells visitors to stub their cigarettes out.
The Vic’s healthier workforce manager, Hannah Foxcraft, said at the time: “Smoking is an addiction and this system aims to encourage people to quit.
“We are a health care provider and it is vital we take every possible step to discourage smoking for the good of all our patients, visitors, and staff.
“People often have to pass through cigarette smoke when accessing the hospital and this is totally unacceptable.”