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New policy promises a breath of fresh air for hospitals
26 January 2017

People using hospitals in Ipswich and Colchester will be able to enjoy a breath of fresh air later this spring when both NHS trusts go tobacco-free on national No Smoking Day.

The trusts will remove smoking shelters at Ipswich Hospital, Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital and become completely tobacco-free on 8 March. In line with guidance issued by Public Health England, people will still be able to use e-cigarettes, but will need to go to a designated vaping area.

Doctors and nurses at the hospitals are giving patients, the public and staff plenty of notice of the change in the hope that it will encourage more people to take the first steps towards quitting with support from NHS stop smoking services.

Dr Angela Tillett, Medical Director at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We know that within just 72 hours of stopping, your breathing becomes easier as your body becomes clear of nicotine and the mucus in your lungs starts to clear. Your sense of taste will return and after three months, coughs, wheezing and breathing problems improve as lung function increases. After one year, the risk of heart disease is about half compared with a person who is still smoking.

“As a consultant paediatrician, I realise how important it is to help parents and carers of children stop smoking – by stopping you reduce the chance of children you care for suffering from bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma attacks, meningitis and ear infections.”

Dr Jonathan Douse, respiratory consultant at Ipswich Hospital said: “The most effective and important health intervention for any medical condition is to stop smoking. The impact on health is much greater than any medication I could prescribe.

“Coming into hospital is a very good time for people to consider quitting. There is a good chance that smoking has contributed to their admission in the first place, which means that stopping is key if they want to avoid coming back again. We will do everything we can to support them and can also signpost them to the stop smoking service available on site.”

More than seven million adults in England smoke, and tobacco use remains the single largest cause of premature death. 

Every year, around 96,000 people in the UK die from diseases caused by smoking – which is the equivalent of three quarters of the population of Ipswich. Smoking accounts for over one-third of respiratory deaths, over one-quarter of cancer deaths, and about one-seventh of deaths from cardiovascular disease.

It also results in around 475,000 hospital admissions every year, costing the NHS an estimated £2bn and social care a further £1.1bn.

Smoking also has an impact on others, with both hospitals receiving increasing complaints about exposure to second-hand smoke and the litter caused by cigarette butts.

“Although the vast majority of people are responsible and use the smoking shelters, we have received increasing complaints about people smoking near the hospital entrances,” said Margaret Grant, Occupational Health lead nurse and operations manager at Ipswich. “One mother who visits regularly has even told us that coming to hospital was the only time her child was ever exposed to second-hand smoke.

“However, we fully appreciate just how difficult it can be for people to stop smoking, especially when they are visiting hospital and may be stressed or have just received bad news. That is why we want to support people to make a positive change for their health.

“We would encourage anyone who lives in Suffolk and wants to quit to contact OneLife Suffolk, who hold regular smoking cessation sessions at the hospital, and take the first steps to becoming smoke-free.”

Sheila Boyle, head of Health and Wellbeing at Colchester, said: “We are committed to helping people to live a healthy lifestyle and our clinical colleagues will always ask patients who smoke if they would like help to stop when they are referred to one of our hospitals.

“Anyone who lives in Essex and wants to stop smoking should contact Provide, which run the stop smoking service in the county.”

Both trusts already ask patients whether they smoke following a referral, and will signpost them to their GP or smoking cessation services for support to quit.

For more information about OneLife Suffolk and the support it provides, call 01473 718193 or email info@onelifesuffolk.co.uk

Provide run the Essex stop smoking service, and can be contacted by phone on 0300 303 9988 between 8am-8pm, or by emailing provide.essexlifestyles@nhs.net