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Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
'Nurses at risk' from smoking patients
Smoking
Smoking patients could be putting nurses at risk
District nurses could be harmed by patients who smoke in their homes before or after visits, their conference was told.

But nurses at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) annual congress overwhelmingly voted not to campaign for the rights of nurses to work in a smoke free environment.

Most argued that it was an infringement of the human rights of the patient to try to restrict their smoking in their own homes.

The resolution was put forward by the RCN's District Nurses' Forum.

Caroline Vafeas, who chairs the forum, and is a district nurse in the Eastbourne area, said she felt the issue was one of health and safety at work.

"Employers should provide a safe working environment for their staff, and that includes nurses.

Pregnancy smoking

"Hospital nurses can work in a smoke-free environment, so why can't we?"

One speaker told the congress that she had a diabetic patient who required two visits every day, and lived in a smoky environment.

Ms Vafeas said her own fears about passive smoking were intensified when she continued work during pregnancy.

"Most of my patients were fine about it - if I asked them to stop smoking, they would. But even if they stop just before I arrive, the smoke is still there."

She suggested that patients might have to agree to set aside a smoke-free room where practicable.

Treatment could take place here.

"It's a very grey area, but I feel that in 10 years time we'll discuss this and wonder why there was no action now."

Only approximately 20% of delegates voted in favour of the district nurses' resolution.

Psychiatric nurses argued that it was important that patients felt as relaxed as possible during treatment, and this might occasionally require them to smoke.

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See also:

03 Apr 00 | Health
Nurses: Six months to save NHS
05 Apr 00 | Health
Nurses' powers to be increased
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