University Hospital of North Staffordshire ditches ban on smoking
A SMOKING ban is being dropped at Staffordshire's biggest hospital because it is being flouted by so many patients and visitors.
Four shelters for people to light up will now be provided at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.
They include one outside its cancer centre, where people being treated for the disease continue smoking.
Another is planned for the maternity unit after heavily pregnant women were spotted with cigarettes by the front door.
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Officials are seeking planning consent to build the shelters, which are designed to move smokers from around hospital doorways.
Health watchdogs said they were disappointed with the move but understood why it had to be made.
Hospital managers, who introduced the ban four years ago, said the change 'in no way condones smoking' and added that staff who light up will continue to risk disciplinary action.
But the opening of its £400million superhospital in March has slashed the number of entrances meaning more smokers are huddled round the remaining ones.
That led to rising complaints from non-smoking patients left to walk through clouds of smoke and past bins overflowing with cigarette butts.
Chief nurse Liz Rix said: "The beautiful main entrance is a particular problem with such a large number of smokers congregating at times it has been difficult to keep it clean."
National anti-smoking charity ASH praised the hospital for having tried the 'gold standard' of a total ban.
A spokesman said: "We are extremely sympathetic with the trust in having to alter its policy as we too find it astonishing that people smoke in the doorways of cancer and maternity units.
"But large numbers still do smoke and it is sensible to use shelters to move them from entrances."
Newcastle Mayor David Becket, a member of the borough council health scrutiny committee, said: "I am disappointed they have had to do this particularly as so many people are in hospital from smoking-related illnesses. But if people insist, it is better to move them away from the doorway.
"I now hope anti-smoking posters will be plastered over the shelters to be read by captive audience."