King’s Lynn hospital unveils new smoking shelter after ban fails
Queen Elizabeth Hospital gives-up banning smoking from West Norfolk site
The first of three smoking shelters at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital has been completed.
Costing �17,000, the shelters are being installed five years after a smoking ban was put on the entire site which proved impossible to enforce.
The new shelters, one of which is complete with 'camouflage' prints so it blends in to the background, have been designed to keep smokers away from the main entrance to the building.
A ban on smoking at the hospital, introduced across the NHS in 2007, was flouted by many visitors, patients and staff. The QEH said the no-smoking rule was also found to be impossible to enforce legally.
Gwyneth Wilson, director of patient experience at the QEH, said: 'We are still committed to encouraging visitors, patients and staff to stop smoking, for the benefit of their health.
'The smoking ban imposed on all NHS sites was largely ignored by visitors and patients and we had no legal powers to enforce it.
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'Our staff often experienced abuse and threats when we asked smokers to stop or offered help via the NHS to kick their habit.'
Mrs Wilson said the hospital would continue to promote the NHS's stop smoking service 'at every available opportunity'. She said this would include encouraging smokers to attend smoking cessation clinics or to obtain help from local pharmacies, GP practices and other occupational health advice services.
But she added: 'We have to accept that smoking is a vital safety valve for some people if they are dealing with a stressful situation or have received bad news.
'Having the smoking shelter will give smokers the opportunity to move away from the front entrance to the hospital, where cigarette smoke was causing distress to many visitors and staff.'
The other two shelters will be in the main car park and at the side of the main hospital block, by the staff cycle compound. All the shelters will contain a display panel for information on quitting smoking.
The QEH is not the first hospital in East Anglia to change direction over smoking on site. Shelters went up at the James Paget Hospital, at Gorleston, in June.
A spokesman for the JPH said: 'The Trust reintroduced smoking shelters earlier in the year and there has been a fall in the number of complaints and comments regarding smoking at the main entrance.
The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has no plans for shelters.