Northern Ireland

Some mental health units in Northern Ireland to allow smoking while review is undertaken

Cigarette butts
Image caption The South Eastern Trust has agreed to temporarily lift the prohibition while a review is undertaken.

Inpatients at some mental health units in Northern Ireland are to be exempt from the ban on smoking on hospital grounds.

The South Eastern Trust has agreed to temporarily lift the prohibition while a review is undertaken.

On Thursday, a judge in Belfast's High Court was told the review would decide if the ban should be extended to inpatients in mental health wards.

The review is expected to take at least six months.

Discrimination

The ruling is the outcome of a legal fight by a 23-year-old woman detained on an acute psychiatric ward.

Under legislation introduced last month no staff, patients, contractors or visitors can smoke on any Health and Social Care site in Northern Ireland.

Lawyers for the woman claimed there was a failure to carry out proper consultation on the ban.

Image copyright SPL
Image caption Her application for a judicial review aimed at securing an exemption for those in her position.

They also say the ban discriminates against a patient who is currently unable to leave.

The woman, who has been granted anonymity in the case, is being detained for up to six months at a hospital in the South Eastern Trust.

Her application for a judicial review aimed at securing an exemption for those in her position.

In court on Thursday it was confirmed that a resolution had been reached. The Trust agreed to review its decision to implement the smoke-free policy in its acute mental health inpatient wards and environments.

Vulnerable

Counsel for the trust confirmed they would examine the process to ensure all concerns expressed are addressed.

Dismissing the judicial review challenge on that basis, the judge awarded legal costs to the woman.

Outside court, her solicitor insisted the legal action was not about smoker's rights.

He said: "It was about the conditions and restrictions which can lawfully be placed on the most vulnerable in our society, if their health means they have to be detained in a mental health ward."

He also stressed that his client sought the judicial review on behalf of others within her area in the same position.

He said: "I am sure other trusts in Northern Ireland will look very carefully at this case."

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