Smoking curbs urged for hospitals

Ill smokers should be given nicotine patches or gum the moment they arrive in hospital in a bid to help them curb the habit, health officials said.

Hospitals should provide all smokers with "immediate access" to smoking cessation products to help them stop or temporarily abstain from smoking, said the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

In new draft recommendations, the health guidance body also calls on all hospitals to implement smoke-free policies in their grounds. In some trusts around the country, patients can be seen outside buildings sporting hospital gowns and slippers while puffing away on a cigarette. Meanwhile other hospitals have zero tolerance policies on smoking in their grounds.

In the new guidance, which is now open for consultation, Nice says that such a policy should be implemented across England. It is also calling on trusts to give all patients information about their smoke-free rules and support to help smokers kick the habit.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of Nice's Centre for Public Health, said: "The benefits of stopping smoking are well known, and people are already required by law not to smoke inside enclosed or mostly enclosed buildings.

"This draft guidance sets out proposals on supporting people in a hospital environment not to smoke, as well as supporting the smoke-free policies in hospitals.

"Secondary care providers have a responsibility to protect the health of people who use or work in their services. The draft recommendations propose that this duty of care should also routinely cover providing advice on how to improve health, including stop-smoking interventions.

"Some people do not want to give up smoking completely, so one of the draft recommendations advises they should be helped to abstain from smoking during their stay.

"It adds that they should be given advice on using nicotine replacement therapies (such as patches or gum) to help with any cravings. We want to hear people's views of these proposals."

Treating smoking-related illness costs the NHS £2.7 billion every year.