North Staffordshire hospital to install smoking shelters at cancer centre
FIVE smoking shelters are set to be installed at Staffordshire's biggest hospital – including one at the cancer centre.
The University Hospital of North Staffordshire has applied for planning permission for the shelters after failing to stop patients and visitors from lighting up within the Hartshill grounds.
Now the shelters are being planned to try to stop people having to walk through cigarette fumes.
The shelters are set to go up outside the hospital's cancer centre, its maternity block, its main entrance, its accident unit and the Lyme Building entrance.
Hospital officials today declined to explain why a smoking shelter was planned for the cancer centre.
But cancer survivors have hit out at the move.
Arthur Wakelin, aged 66, of Tunstall, who still has annual check-ups after beating prostate cancer, said: "I have always been surprised by the number of people who come outside to smoke and some of them are quite obviously inpatients.
"I would like to see the smoking ban continued as there is nothing worse than going to hospital and seeing cigarette butts on the floor."
Ron Locker, of Cheadle, who is the founder of the Staffordshire Moorlands Cancer Support Group, added: "I understand the difficulty of people who have been smoking all their lives to just quit.
"But it is not pleasant for patients heading into hospital to have to walk through people smoking outside."
The hospital lifted its four-year 'ban' on smoking in October after admitting defeat in its no-smoking crusade.
Staff will not be allowed to use the new shelters. Cigarette bins will be placed alongside the shelters.
Chief Nurse Liz Rix said: "We do not condone smoking on our premises by patients, visitors or staff.
"However, a degree of pragmatism has been adopted to keep the hospital clean and tidy and smokers away from building entrances.
"The beautiful main entrance has become a particular problem area with a large number of smokers congregating and at times it has been difficult to keep the area clean. We accept this has caused problems for neighbouring residential areas and are working with unions to see what actions can be taken to alleviate this.
"We enforce a blanket ban on staff smoking on our property and staff will not be allowed to use the shelters."
Health campaigner Ian Syme today labelled the shelter plan as 'pragmatic'.
He said: "People smoke and we have to recognise that.
"The hospital has to be pragmatic and it simply has enough on its plate as it is."
But Councillor Colin Eastwood, chairman of Newcastle Borough Council's Health Scrutiny Committee, said: "I don't feel the shelters are really addressing the problem of smoking. It is almost like condoning smoking.
"Smoking is a real issue in the local area and it concerns me that the hospital is providing for them.
"What they should be doing is supporting smokers who are admitted to hospital to quit the habit."
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is expected to rule on the planning application in the middle of February.
A public consultation ends on February 1.