A UK healthcare trust has extended its no smoking policy to cover vaping – and has threatened disciplinary action against staff who flout its new rules.
The Western Health and Social Care Trust, which is responsible for NHS healthcare in the western half of Northern Ireland, has ignored the latest government guidance and added vapour products to its existing smoking ban.
The move, which bans the use of e-cigarettes on any of the trust’s properties, has already upset medical staff – particularly nurses who are the most likely victims of the harsh new policy.
Anyone caught using an e-cigarette on hospital grounds now faces punishment. Staff are also being encouraged to ask carers and service users who smoke [or vape], to refrain from doing so an hour before any scheduled visit and while they are in the trust’s hospitals and grounds.
Dessie Lowry of the Royal College of Nursing described the threat of disciplinary action as “draconian”.
He said: “We were presented with this policy as a fait accompli. We asked that our comments be taken on board and while we can’t say for certain they weren’t, the policy was published without the amendments we had requested.
“It is draconian to put staff on a disciplinary action and that was our view which was not taken on board.”
Dr Dermot Hughes, the trust’s medical director, claims the staff should “take pride in working in a smoke-free environment” but gives no explanation for the inclusion of vaping in the ban.
He said: “Staff should take pride in working in a smoke-free environment and ask anyone they see smoking to “stub it out” and advise them about our Smokefree policy and our stop smoking services.
“However, we equally need the support of the public to comply with our Smokefree Policy when they are visiting our trust properties.”
The tough measure at Western Trust comes despite a new report by the Royal College of Physicians released last week which argues that vaping should be allowed on hospital grounds to give smokers an extra incentive to quit.