E-cigarettes 'should be allowed at hospitals '

27 June 2018 08:52

Smokers are admitted and discharged without being asked if they are a smoker or being offered help to quit the habit

Smokers are admitted and discharged without being asked if they are a smoker or being offered help to quit the habit

Smokers should be allowed to use e-cigarettes at NHS sites, leading doctors have suggested in a new report.

Members of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) called for e-cigarettes to be permitted on hospital grounds to help the NHS move towards completely smoke-free sites.

The RCP has also suggested that stop-smoking services should be an "opt-out" element of NHS care for smoking addiction, a move that could double quit rates in patients.

At present, smokers are admitted and discharged without being asked if they are a smoker or being offered help to quit the habit.

Improve patients' lives

The RCP, which is currently hosting its Innovation in Medicine conference in London, has also called for all healthcare training to include information on smoking cessation.

It said that stop-smoking services delivered separately from mainstream NHS services "may now not be the best approach".

In England, responsibility for these services was transferred to local authorities in 2013 and funding has since fallen "dramatically", it added.

Professor John Britton, chair of the RCP's Tobacco Advisory Group, said: "Treating the more than one million smokers who are admitted to hospitals every year represents a unique opportunity for the NHS to improve patients' lives, while also saving money.

"For too long the NHS has failed to take responsibility for smoking, while prioritising other, less effective activity.

"Smoking, the biggest avoidable cause of death and disability in the UK, is hiding in plain sight in our hospitals and other NHS services; the NHS must end the neglect of this huge opportunity to improve our nation's health."

£1 billion a year

Commenting on the report, Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England, said: "One in four hospital patients are smokers costing hospitals £1 billion a year.

"We fully support the Royal College in saying by far the majority of the NHS could be doing more to help smokers to quit."

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