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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 01:59 GMT
Hospital stubs out 'bad example'
Michael Gill
Michael Gill was on 20 cigarettes a day
Irony is probably too mild a word for the experience of braving clouds of nicotine at a hospital doorway while visiting a relative suffering from cancer or heart disease.

This has been a scene repeated at hospitals all over the UK as patients - some attached to drips - light up in a huddle outside hospital.

Mike Phelan, Director of Operations at the Countess of Chester Hospital has vivid memories of the scene outside his own hospital.

"You would see half clad heavily pregnant women in the cold outside smoking," he recalled.

And it wasn't just patients who were prepared to brave the elements, often the hard core smokers included doctors and nurses.

But those scenes have disappeared in a cloud of smoke since the hospital introduced a zero tolerance policy on 2 January.

In addition to focusing on patients and visitors, management have also stubbed out four smoking shelters staff used for their fag breaks.

"We had three main reasons," said Mr Phelan, "but the most important was that as a health establishment we ought to be setting a good example."

Hospital managers had also received complaints about smoking and were planning to respond to the national smoking ban due later this year.

Smoking shelters removed at Countess of Chester Hospital
Staff are also subject to the smoking ban

According to Mr Phelan the move was backed unanimously by the trade unions and so far he has only received "a couple of emails" from staff unhappy at the ban.

However management also wanted to find out how many employees smoked and found around 800 - almost a third of staff - admitted to smoking.

As a result employees who want to quit smoking have been offered subsidised Nicotine Replacement Therapy, and, surprisingly, other non-NHS recommended quit methods such as hypnotherapy, accupuncture, and the Allen Carr stop smoking book Easyway.

For the hospital it doesn't matter how you give up, just that you choose a method that works for you.

BBC One's Real Story caught up with the attempts of three staff members who tried three different methods to stub out their cravings.

Nicky Wyatt
I loved it that was my problem
Nicky Wyatt, midwife

Midwife Nicky Wyatt, who has smoked 10 to 15 cigarettes a day for the past 10 years, said she felt a hypocrite telling patients to quit when she sneaked into the hospital grounds to feed her habit.

"I loved it - that was my problem," she said.

But she managed to quit after attending an Allen Carr stop smoking clinic where the aim is to change a smoker's attitude to the habit.

Despite the experience of going "cold turkey" which made her feel "pretty ratty" she could feel daily progress.

Paediatric nurse Clare Bevan, another 15 a day smoker, found that NRT has helped her to stop smoking despite the odd lapse.

After a few drinks at a wedding party she sneaked out for a cigarette.

"Whatever it was I was expecting, I didn't get it. It has had the positive effect that I don't want to do it again," she said.

Complementary methods to quit smoking are being offered

Health care assistant Michael Gill, who has smoked for 30 years, tried a variety of complementary therapies including acupuncture and hypnotherapy in an attempt to end his habit of 20 fags a day.

Initially he lost the desire to smoke and even when he succumbed found himself retching.

However he is resigned to being a social smoker, "I'm still smoking, not as many, but still smoking," he said.

Meanwhile the hospital's crusade against smoking could be entering a new phase, according to Mr Phelan.

"We are considering the position of our community midwives who go to houses where people smoke and what sort of attitude to take to the fact that they are exposed to second-hand smoke as part of their job," he said.

Real Story: Don't carry on nurse - getting health workers to quit smoking is on BBC One on Wednesday 24 January at 1930GMT.

Real Story: Don't Carry On Nurse


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