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Shameful - hospital targets smokers with tannoy and children’s voices

I was on Radio Two talking to Jeremy Vine today.

The subject was this story – Wakefield's Pinderfields Hospital smokers shamed via loudspeaker (BBC News):

People who ignore 'no smoking' signs by the doors of a Wakefield hospital are being shamed through a loudspeaker.

Staff, visitors and patients can activate the pre-recorded messages, which are then played through a speaker outside Pinderfields Hospital.

"Hi, I'm Georgia, would you mind not smoking outside? Someone's mummy or daddy could be having their treatment today," says one of the announcements.

The use of some very young voices is obviously designed as a form of moral blackmail. According to Metro:

The messages, which are all read out by children, say: ‘Excuse me, do you think you could put out your cigarette? Someone’s nanny, granddad, mummy or daddy, is having their cancer treatment today. Thank you.’

Another says: ‘A lot of our parents come here for their cancer treatment. Please think before you smoke,’ or ‘Please protect my family from your smoking outside… you can increase their chances of staying well if you stop.’

Forest was quoted in both reports. Our full statement read:

"Hospitals can be stressful places for patients, visitors and even staff. For some smoking is a comfort and it's pretty Orwellian to target them using loudspeakers and emotive messages.

"Banning smoking on hospital sites rarely works because people will light up anyway. A better solution is a comfortable smoking area away from the hospital entrance but not so far that it discriminates against those who are infirm or less mobile."

Last night I also appeared on Look North (BBC Yorkshire). Among the comments that subsequently appeared on Twitter was this one:

In contrast here's a comment posted by by Juliette Tworsey on the Forest Facebook page:

How about we create a 'shaming' button for those among us, who in all of their 'perfection', show absolutely NO empathy or human understanding/kindness towards another human being who might be experiencing a time of great stress in his/her life? How about we shame THAT person for lack of kindness and human understanding?

I do accept that a group of people smoking directly outside a hospital entrance isn't a great look. There are reasons why they’re there though.

Hospital smoking rooms disappeared a long time ago. Today NHS trusts either ban smoking completely (although it’s not illegal to light up on hospital grounds in England) or they provide a smoking area or 'shelter'.

The latter has to be at least 50 per cent open to the elements so if it's cold or raining it's human nature to want to stand near the entrance which is often under a large canopy.

Some patients may be attached to drips, in wheelchairs or largely immobile as they recover from hip replacements and who knows what.

For them it's physically difficult to walk or travel any distance, let alone off site, so they light up by the entrance – and who can blame them?

I take issue too with the claim that non-smoking patients, visitors and staff are forced to endure "clouds of smoke" when they enter and exit the hospital.

I've visited a number of hospitals over the years and although I've often seen small groups of smokers directly outside the entrance I've never been exposed to the "fug of smoke" described by Martin Barkley, CEO of Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust, when speaking to Jeremy Vine today.

You might think that Barkley has more important issues to deal with. Earlier this year, for example, it was widely reported that:

Patients are being forced to sleep on floors with people stepping over them at a busy hospital in West Yorkshire - as the NHS winter chaos gripping Britain continues to worsen.

Shocking images taken at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield show members of the public lying down in corridors.

In one photo a patient dressed only in a loose hospital gown lies next to a metal wheelchair. A second shows a man, attached to a drip, bedded down with his head resting on his rolled-up coat.

See: Shocking photographs show patients 'forced to lie on the FLOOR with people stepping over them' at a busy Yorkshire hospital amid winter NHS chaos (Daily Mail).

Naturally I raised the issue while we were being interviewed by Jeremy Vine:

SC: It's only earlier this year that I believe there were some stories in the press about Pinderfields concerning patients having to sleep on the floor. I don't know if Martin can talk about that but it seems to me that type of thing is far more urgent to address than the matter of a few people standing outside having a quiet smoke.

JV: Martin, ball in your court.

MB: [nervous laugh] I mean that was, er, that story was absolutely (sic) misrepresentation of the facts, for a start, about the, um, sleeping on the floor. I want to go back to the point in question ...

You can listen to the full interview here from 33:30.

Meanwhile, what about this report from just two days ago:

A total of 64 patients were struck down by the winter norovirus at Pinderfields Hospital over a six month period, figures have revealed. The virus, often referred to as the winter vomiting bug, caused "severe disruption" between September 2017 and March 2018, the Mid Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust said ...

There were eight separate outbreaks of the norovirus at Pinderfields between September 1 and March 27, papers from the trust confirmed. The worst of these occurred in the hospital's stroke and neurology unit, which affected 22 patients and 13 staff.

I suppose that’s another ‘misrepresentation’. See: 'Severe disruption' hit Pinderfields Hospital after norovirus outbreaks.

Or this, from four days ago: 'NHS operations at Pinderfields could be postponed this winter'.

Addressing those issues, I would suggest, is rather more important than targeting a handful of people smoking outside.

But no, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust is not only trying to stub out smoking using a tannoy and children's voices, it is actually boasting about it.


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Reader Comments (3)

This aims to get the lunatic smokerphobic fringe all frothed up. I think it could be fun. I would urge all smokers to keep pressing that button until the hospital staff and patients inside get so sick of hearing it they demand its removal. Also, the more it is heard, the less it is listened to, the more the message is denormalised. It will become unheard and invisible just like the medical porn, largely ignored, on fag packets.

Meanwhile there is a very serious issue of hospital trusts refusing to treat smokers as patients by otherising us. I am supposed to go for a routine check at hospital as part of my annual body check m.o.t but I won't be going. Why? Because the way the trust says smokers should not bother "other" patients, staff and visitors" by smoking outside. Why should I go to a hospital that sees me as less of a person and a less worthy patient than those who don't smoke?

There is something inherently rotten and corrupt at the core of "our" NHS hospital trusts. I nominate the Wakefield hospital trust bloke as the Bully of the Year.

Saturday, October 20, 2018 at 13:44 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

The other thing to note is one wonders what, or who will be next? I can just imagine a child's voice booming out of a speaker :"hey, fatty, put that chocolate bar down now! There are people's mums, dads and grannys with cancer who can't get costly drugs to make them better because huge fat whales like you are eating up all the money the NHS has spare on treating you because you're greedy and selfish."

The biggest change that should be made to the NHS is retraining for those who have forgotten the meaning of the Hippocratic oath - if by now it hasn't been reworded to exclude every human being that public health doesn't like.

Saturday, October 20, 2018 at 13:55 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

This is outright targeted persecution of smokers. There is virtually no health impact to anyone from smoking outdoors; the vehicles in the car park are the risk! This type of 'shaming' is abusive and Orwellian and needs to stop.

Saturday, October 20, 2018 at 17:09 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

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