Wales

Hospitals considering on-the-spot fines for smokers

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Media captionPolicies to ban smoking on the grounds of all hospitals in Wales have been in force since October 2013

Hospitals across Wales are considering on-the-spot fines for people smoking on site and near entrance ways.

Some hospitals have already employed people to guide smokers off hospital grounds, in a bid to tackle the issue.

Pressure group Ash Wales called the smoking situation "unacceptable" and has urged the Welsh government to enable stricter enforcement.

In response, the Welsh government said it had carried out a consultation and was considering how to take it forward.

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Image caption University Hospital of Wales is one of the hospitals employing smoking enforcement officers

Policies to ban smoking on the grounds of all hospitals in Wales have been in force since October 2013, though some health boards had rules in place earlier.

BBC Wales contacted the six health boards which run hospitals in Wales, with each confirming that smoking is "still visible" around entrances.

Smoke-free officers

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said it had two "smoke-free officers" who offer support to stop while also insisting they are not allowed to smoke on site.

In the last three months alone, a smoking enforcement officer at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff has spoken to more than 1,000 smokers - including 174 members of staff.

CASE STUDY

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Affected by smoking

Liz McSloy, from Pontardawe, has suffered from asthma for over 30 years and is particularly affected by cigarette smoke.

Her five-year-old daughter, Cerys, also has asthma, as well as severe allergies.

"Cerys has regular check ups so we're back and forth at the hospital quite a bit. There are people smoking outside the main entrance on a regular basis"

"The worst is when we have to go to A&E with my asthma. I avoid the main entrance and try and go in a different entrance and work my way around as I know I can stop and sit down to try and recover a bit."

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which runs the NHS across north Wales, said it was now looking into "on-the-spot-fines for littering" for smokers.

It said despite a zero-smoking policy for three years and "new bold signage and innovative awareness-raising campaigns", smokers were still visible on its hospital sites.

'Absolutely abominable'

Simon Clark, director of pro-smoking group Forest, said the threat of fines "was absolutely abominable".

He added: "It seems extraordinary to us that NHS administrators would be spending time, and probably money, coercing people like this.

"Hospitals are very stressful places, not just for patients but also for visitors and staff.

"We can understand them not wanting people to smoke around hospital entrances, in which case the compromise should be a comfortable smoking shelter."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "When asked about legislating to prevent smoking in hospital grounds, responses were generally positive in our recent consultation on the Public Health White Paper, and we are considering how to take this forward."

Image caption Hospitals still have trouble enforcing a smoke-free policy despite signs such as this

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