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Hospital staff have been ordered not to use e-cigarettes anywhere on site in order to maintain a “professional image” – but patients and visitors are exempt.

Workers are said to be “agitated” by the ban, which came into force yesterday. If they break the ban, they have been told they will be disciplined.

Bosses at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, are taking a “zero-tolerance approach” to smoking.

The Trust’s smoke free policy states:

  • Smoking by workers, patients and visitors is strictly prohibited in all of its premises, which includes buildings, vehicles and grounds
  • Patients and visitors are permitted to use e-cigarettes within Trust grounds ONLY. The charging of e-cigarettes using the Trust’s electrical system is strictly prohibited
  • Workers (whether direct employees or agency staff, contractors etc.) are NOT permitted to vape on Trust premises or grounds. Staff who do not adhere to this policy will be subject to disciplinary action

One hospital administration worker, who does not want to be named, claims the workforce is largely in agreement with the ban on smoking, but says many are angered by the rules on vaping, given patients and visitors are still allowed to vape within the hospital grounds.

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She said: “I would go as far as to say that this is a form of bullying. They are picking on the workers. People have become agitated by this.

“I feel very strongly about it. We get the odd ten-minute break and a 30-minute lunch break if we’re lucky. We don’t always have time to go off-site to vape. A lot of people do not agree with the ban. People can’t understand why it’s OK for patients to vape but not staff.

“What’s next? Are they going to ban staff from buying unhealthy things from the canteen, because it could be seen to fuel obesity levels?”

Under national legislation, employers can be fined up to £2,500 if they fail to stop smoking in the workplace, although e-cigarettes are not included.

The trust states: “E-cigarettes are not currently covered by smoke-free legislation and a review by Public Health England in 2015 estimated that they are 95 per cent safer than smoking tobacco. Therefore the Trust has taken the decision that patients and visitors are permitted to use e-cigarettes within Trust grounds only.”

The unnamed worker, who is based at Castle Hill, believes the NHS, albeit on a national level, seems to encourage smokers to switch to less harmful vaping, but says this is at odds with her employer’s present stance.

“If you go onto the NHS website you’ll find lots of information about the benefits of e-cigarettes,” she said. “Yet our trust is telling us we can’t use them on site. It doesn’t make sense.”

The NHS website states: “Evidence indicates that e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking, with similar or better results than nicotine replacement therapies such as patches or gum.”

A trust spokeswoman said: “The decision not to allow staff to vape on hospital premises was taken in order to maintain a professional image for the Trust and the people who represent it.

“Staff are required to go off site if they wish to vape. Alternatively, staff are able to access other alternatives to smoking, such as patches or gum, with the help of the Stop Smoking Team.”

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