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« Quiet sympathisers and dull negative naggers | Main | Pork chop at a bar mitzvah – reflections on GTNF 2015 »

Smoke-free Addenbrooke's placed in special measures

Woke up to hear that Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge has been placed in special measures.

According to BBC News:

One of the biggest NHS trusts has been placed in special measures after inspectors found it was "inadequate".

Inspectors found concerns about staffing levels, delays in outpatient treatment and governance failings.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found staff shortages and long-standing "serious" problems had been ignored.

The CQC also found routine operations were frequently cancelled and maternity services regularly closed.

It said high levels of nitrous oxide, used as pain relief in childbirth, were detected at Rosie Hospital's birthing centre, but the only action taken to address it was to open windows.

But don't worry. While Addenbrooke's was failing on various levels it still found time to target smokers, as ITV News Anglia reported last year:

One of the region's hospitals has gone completely smoke-free. A smoking ban has been put in place across the Addenbrooke's Hospital site in Cambridge.

From the start of 2014, people can no longer smoke anywhere on the site, whether they are inside or outside. It applies to all staff, visitors and patients.

I'm no expert in running a hospital but I do know what the public thinks are the most important priorities facing the NHS and it's not banning smoking in hospital grounds.

According to a Populus poll commissioned by Forest in June this year:

Tackling smoking was considered to be the lowest in a list of [ten] government priorities for the National Health Service, behind even obesity and alcohol issues

Asked to rate government priorities for the National Health Service, respondents rated investing in new doctors and nurses as the highest priority.

Addressing response times at A&E was the second highest ranked priority overall. Improving general waiting times was ranked third.

Among the issues listed, tackling smoking was the lowest priority, behind tackling obesity and alcohol misuse.

Try telling Addenbrooke's. A year after the hospital introduced its second attempt at a 'smoke-free' policy the Cambridge News reported:

More than 11,000 people have been challenged by security staff at the Addenbrooke's site since the smoking ban was introduced just over a year ago.

Eleven thousand!! Consider the time, effort and manpower it must take to "challenge" that number of people on such a large site.

Last week CEO Keith McNeil resigned saying the hospital faced "serious challenges" including a "growing financial debt".

Meanwhile, without a hint of irony, the hospital's website continues to boast, We are proud to be a 'No Smoking' site:

You cannot smoke anywhere on the hospital site.

Our CEO, Dr Keith McNeil is passionate about the smoking ban: “As a heart and lung transplant physician and respiratory medicine specialist, I have seen first-hand smoking’s deadly effect. I also know how hard it is to quit. Banning smoking on site is a real opportunity for all of us to think about our health and make a fresh start. Our teams will do everything we can to support staff and patients and encourage them to give up. I think it’s only right and proper that we lead by example, and make CUH a smoke-free campus.”

As Private Eye used to say, pass the sickbag, Alice.

Update: Last week the Cambridge News reported:

A Cambridge man who lives a stone's throw from Addenbrooke's said he is fed up with the "unpleasantness of smokers" who congregate near his block of flats.

The smoking ban introduced on January 1, 2014, means smokers have to find other areas to congregate outside the hospital's boundaries as there is nowhere for anyone to smoke on the Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) campus.

Retired social worker Peter Durrant, who lives in a block of flats in Long Road at the junction of Adrian Way said he faced a daily battle with hospital workers smoking near his home. But despite him complaining to the hospital "at length" he said the situation has been "going on for months.

The 77-year-old said having to pass people smoking and blowing it in his direction daily is making his and the residents ' lives a misery.

I suspect Mr Durrant doth protest too much. Nevertheless it's clear the 'no smoking' on site policy isn't working.

If they're not smoking on site (11,000 people challenged in a single year, and how many weren't challenged?), patients, visitors and staff are lighting up off site and annoying local residents (allegedly).

Now that CEO Dr Keith McNeil has gone perhaps it's time for a re-think, and a reassessment of the hospital's priorities.

Update: The Press Association reports:

Patients including pregnant women were put at risk by failings at one of the UK's largest NHS trusts, the chief inspector of hospitals said.

The maternity unit at Addenbrooke's Hospital was forced to close and divert patients elsewhere several times because of a shortage of midwives, according to Professor Sir Mike Richards of Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Funny, that. We're often told that non-smoking patients, including pregnant woman, are being put at risk from all those smokers congregating around hospital entrances, hence the need to ban smoking across the entire site.

Instead of spending money enforcing a smoke-free policy, perhaps Addenbrooke's (and other NHS hospitals) could employ a few extra midwives.

Just a thought.

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Reader Comments (7)

Why does this utter stupidity NOT surprise me at all? Hospital facing many inadequacies in patient care, operation times and general waiting times are of great concern yet the outgoing 'smokenutter' CEO Keith McNeil (resigned) main concern is the smoking policy! No wonder this buffoon has resigned - and bloody good riddance too!

With them having had to occasion 11,000 attempts to quell smokers rights I would imagine that this so called "all hospital ban" is nothing but a load of old hot air! And as for Mr Durrant, well, at 77yrs of age I would imagine he has got a few more things to worry about than a wisp of disappearing smoke as it disappears skyward!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 12:48 | Unregistered CommenterPhil J

It looks like the "smoking ban" was used as a means of deflecting attention from substantive deficits in health care. I wonder how much of the antismoking hysteria is being used to divert focus on other issues?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 16:24 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

I sometimes think that there’s something sort of “Karma-ish” about places that impose incredibly strict smoking bans. It may be just coincidence, but I’ve lost count of the number of times that a place – whether it’s a country, a State, or just a single company/organisation (like the Addenbrooke’s) – proudly announces a sweeping, all-embracing, “total” smoking ban and then, just a few short years later (often less) there’s some problem. It isn’t always financial either, although often it is. Sometimes it’s something natural, like floods, or a hurricane, or an earthquake – clearly not directly linked to smoking in any way; other times, like this example, it’s a whole host of regulatory or mismanagement events which have often been bubbling away unseen for a number of years that just so happen to come to the fore in a major way shortly after a smoking ban is enacted; sometimes (as with the company I work for) it’s a sudden and surprising drop-off in customers, even when the business of that company (again, like the one I work for) isn’t connected with smoking in any way nor caters particularly to customers who smoke.

Maybe the fact is that smoking bans are in and of themselves an indication of a last-ditch attempt by a group of people who are running something badly (and who know they are on very shaky ground) to distract any possible critics’ attention away from how dismally they are performing in their real roles by showing what good little boys and girls they are by following the instructions of the anti-smoking brigade - sort of hoping that the thought will be: “Oh, they’ve imposed a smoking ban. So they can’t possibly be doing anything wrong.” A bit like some couples whose marriages are on the rocks often (insanely, in my view), produce another baby in the hope that it’ll “bring them back together again.” But it never works. The ban scenario, just like the baby scenario, is just a short-term fix which doesn’t address the real problems, which all too often merely then return after a period of time – usually even worse than they were before.

Possibly something to remember when considering whether or not to invest in anything or to make a large purchase anywhere – if the organisation in question has recently imposed a smoking ban over and above what the law dictates, they’re probably imminently about to go bust!

As I say, it could all just be coincidence, of course, but one has to wonder how many coincidences one has to witness before those coincidences become – err – a “pattern.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 18:54 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

It would certainly be interesting to understand how many staff, including midwives, decided either to leave Addenbrooke's or refuse to join as a result of this intolerant ban.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 18:57 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Vinny, it seems, is much better at saying in two sentences what it takes me three paragraphs to write. Now, why can't I do that?? :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 at 1:23 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Vinny is right.

If you cast your minds back to 2005 when it appears that smoking bans in hospitals were first mooted, the NHS was in crisis due to massive hospital overspends.

Addenbrooke's was no exception.

"Addenbrooke's Hospital is overdrawn by millions of pounds.
Figures showing the hospital's financial position up to May 31 reveal it is 4.9 million in the red."

"In February, the News revealed Hinchingbrooke Hospital had plunged 4 million into the red. Staff were forced to make cutbacks when all non-essential budgets were suspended until April."

"Last month, Newmarket Hospital announced cuts aimed at saving 9 million to help the hospital's finances. All in-patient beds at the hospital, in Exning Road, are set to be axed to save 1 million and 90 members of staff could lose their jobs."

Worse still, this time there was to be no bailout.

NHS slides into the red despite record increases in health care spending
20 Sep 2005

"The National Health Service in England has gone into the red for the first time in five years despite record increases in Government spending, figures showed yesterday.

Individual hospitals which have overspent by up to £30 million have been warned that they will not be bailed out by the rest of the NHS or the Treasury."

The following year, not only would there be no bailout, the hospitals would have to pay it back.

Overspending crisis hitting patient reforms, hospitals are warned
27 February 2006

"In a bulletin to NHS trust chief executives, he said any debts they incur in this financial year must be repaid by March 2007. Sir Nigel said: "The financial position is serious. Service delivery is improving fast, but the financial issues are undermining this programme. Moreover, debts incurred this year will have to be repaid next year and poor financial control this year gives little confidence about planning for next."

"At the end of September the NHS in England was predicting a net deficit of £623m. Returns at the end of January showed the position was even worse, but the Department of Health is refusing to reveal the sum for fear of demoralising the health service."

"A Guardian investigation of the balance sheets of overspending hospitals found 64 were predicting deficits at the half-year stage, worth £548m. To eliminate the overspending and pay back this debt, they would need to cut double that amount from next year's budget."

What better time to introduce this nasty little piece of legislation.

22 May 2005

"Patients caught smoking inside or outside hospitals face being discharged under new government legislation, which will abolish hospital smoking rooms and encourage a total ban in all grounds.

Patients caught smoking inside or outside hospitals face being discharged under new government legislation, which will abolish hospital smoking rooms and encourage a total ban in all grounds.

The controversial "zero tolerance" plans are part of a new Bill, which will make all hospitals smoke-free by the end of 2006."

"Patients too frail to endure low temperatures outside will be offered "nicotine replacement therapy" in the form of gum and patches. Other measures will include putting up "older person" signs around hospitals for patients crossing busy roads to smoke."

The hospital managers must have fallen over themselves in eagerness to comply with this timely distraction.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 at 10:56 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

Patients who are smokers are bankrolling the NHS. So they must be considered. Because they are not the NHS and politics in general cannot redeem themselves from the nadir where they remain.

Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 16:56 | Unregistered Commentergray

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