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Medway Maritime Hospital goes smoke-free as it bans smoking on the site in Windmill Road, Gillingham

Patients, visitors and staff will no longer be able to light up at Medway hospital as smoking is now banned across the site.

The ban came into force today and means people will not be able to smoke in the buildings, hospital grounds and car parks.

Chief executive Lesley Dwyer said: “There can be no doubt that smoking has a negative impact on health and as a healthcare provider it is important that we lead by example. That’s why I and the vast majority of our staff believe that going smoke-free is absolutely the right way forward.

Medway Maritime Hospital.

Medway Maritime Hospital.

“Our role is to care for people at their most vulnerable in a safe environment. By not allowing smoking on our site we are helping to protect patients, visitors and staff from the harmful effects of smoking.

“I do appreciate that hospitals by their very nature can be stressful places and that people may experience emotions that make them feel the need to smoke, however I hope that the public will support this initiative and help to make the hospital a better, healthier place for all.”

Unlike many other hospitals that have prohibited smoking from all areas, Medway had allowed the activity in designated areas.

A ban was introduced in 2006, but in 2012 the hospital applied for permission to build smoking shelters as it could not stop people from smoking. Shelters costing £8,000 were installed controversially following “numerous complaints” about smokers around the site.

The hospital will be introducing extra security to enforce the ban but there are no plans to fine those who light up in the grounds.

The trust is working with Medway Council to offer support to patients, visitors and staff to help them stop smoking. This will include free nicotine replacement therapy to patients, support for staff and advice for visitors from Medway Council’s Stop Smoking Service.

Medway Maritime Hospital site is going smokefree in October

Medway Maritime Hospital site is going smokefree in October

The Towns has the second highest percentage of people who smoke when compared to the rest of Kent, with 22.3% lighting up. And while the rest of the county has seen a decline in smokers as people switch to e-cigarettes, Medway has seen a slight rise in the last year.

Medway also has the second highest rate of deaths due to smoking in the county. Between 2012 and 2014, there were 319 deaths due to smoke-related illnesses per 100,000 people over the age of 35. Last year there were 1,415 hospital admissions per 100,000 people due to smoking illnesses.

Last month, the hospital hosted a conference to try to reduce the number of expectant mothers who smoke. Figures published earlier this year show almost one in six women in the Towns don’t kick the habit when they are pregnant.

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