A bid to ban smoking from outside Scotland’s biggest hospitals is failing.
And union chiefs are warning three hospital workers face threats of violence every day for asking Scottish patients to stub out their cigarettes.
The Scottish Government insists all hospital sites will be smoke-free by 2015. All of Scotland’s 14 health boards claim they have already outlawed smoking as part of their own targets.
But a Sunday Post probe has discovered brazen smokers continue to flout the strict rules on stubbing out. And campaigners fear smoke-free Scottish hospitals are just a pipe dream without powers to dish out fines.
Dr Jean Turner, of Scotland Patients Association, blasted: “Some hospitals are so bad you have to hold your breath at the front doors to get in. Some patients are wheelchair-bound with drips and legs amputated because of smoking.
“But equally appalling are the staff you see huddled in corners in hospital grounds, smoking on breaks.
“Sadly, many visitors light up just feet from the front doors of children’s and other hospitals without caring where their cancer-causing smoke drifts.
“Fines should be introduced and the money that is raised diverted towards vital drug treatment and measures to help people quit smoking. Fines are given to litter louts so why not for smokers? It’s certainly a public nuisance.”
Matt McLaughlin, of health service union, Unison, said: “Every week two of our members are threatened with abuse and bad language at every large teaching hospital in Scotland.
“A programme of education is desperately needed to get smokers to stop or move off hospital premises. Three smoking wardens resigned soon after starting their jobs because of the fear of abuse. They felt they couldn’t face another day of it.”
Our damning investigation took us to all of Scotland’s main hospitals to see if they were on track in meeting smoke-free hospitals.
Some Health Boards told us firm measures to stop the habit included blaring out warnings on loudspeakers and using no-nonsense smoking wardens.
But our probe revealed all efforts were failing with stubborn nicotine-addicts puffing away regardless.
In Scotland’s biggest city, where NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde launched a zero tolerance approach to smokers in April amid a haze of publicity, we found the stringent rules were being ignored.
At Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children we found seven smokers just feet from the windows of the children’s cancer ward standing near No Smoking signs with an image of a child undergoing chemotherapy, pleading with smokers to stop.
Other visitors smoked next to the children’s play area just feet from the entrance.
By the front door of Glasgow’s Southern General maternity ward, pregnant women sat on fences with smokers.
In Edinburgh, just 15 yards from the front door of the capital’s Western General, a man in a wheelchair smoked beside No Smoking signs.
Close by the doors of St John’s Hospital in Livingston patients stood in dressing gowns and crutches, smoking.
Patients smoked in their pyjamas at the entrance to the cancer diagnostic scanning units at Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock. One leaned against the wall with a visitor beside a baby in a pram.
At Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital hospital workers puffed away near No Smoking signs.
And at Aberdeen’s Royal Infirmary a visitor was seen puffing away underneath the sign for the Maggie’s cancer charity unit.
Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of ASH Scotland, said: “The policy of smoke-free hospital grounds sends a message that tobacco is an enemy of good health. Hospitals see so much misery caused by smoking and are rightly keen to discourage the use of tobacco.
“People need advice and support to manage their smoking addiction. We realise it’s not always easy to monitor smokers in hospitals or to take action. It’s important they are on hand to give advice and support about quitting tobacco as well as to remind people of the policy over smoke-free grounds.
“There may be other steps that could be considered by the hospital authorities. Eye-catching signs and markings on the ground can also help.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Scotland’s health service should be an exemplar in providing smoke-free environments. It is confident in achieving our target of smoke-free hospital grounds by 2015.
“Smoking is linked to over 13,000 deaths and 56,000 hospital admissions in Scotland. We are committed to reducing the numbers smoking and exposure to second hand smoke. It is for Boards to develop their own proposals for implementation.
“There is significant public support for smoking bans around hospital buildings. As a result, we expect the measure to be largely self-policing.”
The Scottish Government are believed to be considering using an army of smoke wardens to tackle the smoking scourge after the pilot in Glasgow was deemed a “success”. That’s despite three smoke wardens quitting within days of being hired amid fears of violence in July. Even NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde labelled the ill-treatment they faced as “staggering levels of verbal abuse from hard core smokers.”
The £12,000-a-year wardens were among 17 hired by the health board. NHS bosses hired them after doctors warned that smoke at the doors could harm patients, staff and visitors.
Health service union, Unison, is calling on health boards to toughen up on measures to protect wardens.
What YOUR board allows
Ayrshire and Arran: Banned, but smokers can use smoking shelters.
NHS Borders: Banned, but allowed in one car park and a shelter in a mental health unit.
NHS Dumfries and Galloway: Banned, with shelters.
NHS Fife: Banned, except for patient smoking rooms.
NHS Forth Valley: Banned and using loudspeakers at Forth Valley Royal Hospital to warn smokers to stub out.
NHS Grampian: Banned with limited smoking shelters, a spokesman claimed they were “virtually smoke-free.”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde: Banned, with wardens employed.
NHS Highland: Banned.
NHS Lanarkshire: Banned. A spokesman claimed: “It’s tough to enforce.”
NHS Lothian: Banned, with designated smoking areas. Staff at Edinburgh Royal were reportedly warned in September they faced the sack if caught puffing on cigarettes.
NHS Orkney: Banned.
NHS Shetland: Banned.
NHS Tayside: Banned, with smoking shelter for patients.
NHS Western Isles: To be banned later this month.