Smoking on hospital premises – a common law right?
In these increasingly smoke-free times, the argument over whether patients should be allowed to smoke on hospital premises is one that many people have strong opinions on. As places of recuperation, where illnesses are being treated and health and recovery promoted, should smoking, with its known detrimental effect on health, be allowed? Others might argue that patients have suffered enough, without the need to take away their right to smoke.
The UK smoking ban, brought into force in places of work in July 2007, made it illegal for patients to smoke indoors at hospitals. Currently, it is the NHS trusts in areas throughout the country who decide upon whether smoking is banned on their premises or not. In July 2011, we saw the University Health Board ban smoking outside entrances to all hospitals in the Cardiff and Vale area, with a further ban on the entirety of NHS premises in the locality in November.
Conversely, in May this year, we saw patients at Chadwick Lodge, a 52 bed secure unit providing treatment and care for patients detained under the Mental Health Act, granted permission to bring an appeal against a smoking ban at the premises. The legal team representing the patients said that the ban at Chadwick Lodge infringed the common law rights of the patients under the Equality Act 2010. Despite a previous appeal which was lost by patients in 2009, Mr Justice Silber gave the patients permission to seek a judicial review.
Until such time when the government enforce more widespread smoking bans, legal and moral battles such as this are likely to continue. We’d be interested to hear your thoughts and opinions on smoking on hospital premises.