From the 1st January 2007 everyone at South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust will be experiencing fresher air, thanks to the introduction of the smoke-free policy.
Smoking will not be permitted in hospital buildings or grounds, in line with the Government deadline that all NHS premises must be smoke free by 2007.
The Trust has been working towards the policy for some time and has worked closely with staff in all areas including pharmacy and stop smoking specialists. Importantly, the Trust has worked with people who use services and their carers, with both smokers and non-smokers being represented.
The policy means that staff are no longer allowed to light up anywhere whilst on duty. Visitors and contractors will be told to put out their cigarettes on site too.
People who use mental health services are also being supported to make the change when they are at Trust sites or expecting a home visit. Service users will be asked if they want help in stopping smoking and will benefit from individual action plans and nicotine replacement therapy will also be prescribed to anyone who needs it.
The Trust has also been working closely with local stop smoking services who are supporting the Trust in delivering the new policy, including running special stop smoking sessions for staff.
Steven Michael, acting Trust chief executive, said, "We are committed to protecting the health of people who use our services, staff and visitors by ensuring a smoke-free environment. Breathing someone else’s smoke increases your risks of heart disease, cancer and respiratory problems.
"Whilst this policy is not about telling people they have to stop smoking, we are keen to encourage and help people if they do wish to stop. Many people with mental health problems who smoke want to give up and we are committed to help them make this vital improvement to their health. Everyone should be encouraged to look after both their mental and physical health as the two often go hand-in-hand."
People living with mental health problems are particularly vulnerable to nicotine addiction. Smoking rates are at least twice as high among mental health patients than in the general population, yet research has shown that around 50 per cent of smokers with mental health problems want to quit.
Steven continued, "Whilst we will be making every effort to encourage and support people to stop smoking we do recognise that for some inpatients at our acute mental health units, quitting smoking is a very difficult thing to do. We will, therefore, be making exceptions strictly on an individual case basis and these people will be able to smoke in designated areas. However, we will continue to work with individuals to help them stop smoking whilst in hospital."
Staff have been telling people who use services about the new policy and information has been made available, including a dedicated section on the Trust website, www.southwestyorkshire.nhs.uk