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‘Huge reduction’ in smoking at Ipswich and Colchester hospital sites thanks to vaping areas

PUBLISHED: 18:23 20 February 2018 | UPDATED: 18:24 20 February 2018

From left, Sheila Boyle, head of health and wellbeing at Colchester Hospital; Clare Edmondson, director of HR at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals; and Margaret Grant, nuring occupational health manager at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

From left, Sheila Boyle, head of health and wellbeing at Colchester Hospital; Clare Edmondson, director of HR at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals; and Margaret Grant, nuring occupational health manager at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

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Markedly fewer people are smoking within the grounds of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals since vaping zones were introduced, bosses have said.

Smoke-free signs at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELLSmoke-free signs at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

This month Public Health England (PHE) released new evidence that showed e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than tobacco alternatives and should be promoted as a safe way to quit smoking.

Within the report, PHE urges NHS trusts to introduce vaping policies that help smokers give up for good.

Ipswich and Colchester are one step ahead of most hospitals.

While both trusts have been officially smoke-free for many years, director of human resources Clare Edmondson said the policy wasn’t stringently enforced.

In March last year, to mark National No Smoking Day, Ipswich and Colchester upped the ante and replaced smoking shelters with dedicated outdoor vaping areas.

Fresh signs were put up around the sites to spread the message, and staff became more active in referring patients and colleagues to smoking cessation courses.

Employees were given training on how to challenge visitors caught smoking on site, but advised to partner the policy with mindfulness and compassion.

Margaret Grant, nursing occupational health manager at Ipswich, said: “People are encouraged to use their own judgement. If you have someone who is end-of-life or had some devastating news and [smoking] is their coping mechanism then err on the side of caution.”

Smoke-free signs at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELLSmoke-free signs at Ipswich Hospital. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

A sign outside Ipswich A&E reads: “If our staff ask you to stop smoking, please do not be abusive, they are only doing their job.”

GPs are also working to make patients aware of the no smoking policy ahead of a planned visit to Ipswich or Colchester, and to signpost them to support services to help manage cravings while in hospital.

The PHE report also urges NHS trusts to sell e-cigarettes within their hospital shops, but Ipswich and Colchester have not made this move.

Ms Edmondson said there had a “huge reduction” in smoking at Ipswich and Colchester since last year, but there were some visitors who ignored the advice.

With this year’s National No Smoking Day approaching, Ms Edmondson said leaders would be reviewing their policies to see what more could be done to tackle the issue.

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