Issue 19

New Rules Regarding Smoking

Hello Readers,

I have been asked to write a brief submission relating to the changes we are about to experience in Caswell Clinic in relation to smoking. I don’t know why they picked me but they did and so I shall!

Many years ago it was common for psychiatric staff to be allowed to drink a moderate amount of alcohol on duty. This was usually in the context of social activities with patients e.g. on returning from a recreational day out, the hospital coach (remember them?) would stop outside a public house and all the staff and patients would pop in for a drink. At Christmas it was not unusual for wards to lay out tables with alcohol on "to offer to visitors". It is unimaginable now, to consider that staff could properly do their jobs whilst under the influence of alcohol. In the early eighties opinion changed and Trusts banned staff from drinking or being under the influence of drink, on duty. There was uproar at the time. Staff claimed this was sabotaging rehabilitation for patients until it was quietly pointed out that the ban did not apply to patients, only to staff.

I suspect we are about to see the same situation unfolding in relation to smoking. From April 2007 staff will not be allowed to smoke on duty and even during their breaks staff will not be allowed to smoke on NHS premises. This is in line with policy from the National Assembly of Wales that will ban smoking in all public places, except where specific provision has been made. This will not affect patients within Caswell Clinic because we are "a place of residence to people for over 60 days" which classifies Caswell as the patient′s home. Patients will continue to be able to smoke in the smoking rooms.

I have some thoughts to offer on this. It has been put to me that as all patients elsewhere in the NHS are going to be made to stop smoking, allowing our patients to continue to damage their health is prejudicial against people with mental illnesses. Many other secure units have gone entirely smoke free, patients included. I also wonder, if ward space is at a premium, why we sacrifice a room just for people to smoke in? Isn′t that prejudicial against non-smoking patients? What do you think?

In any event, I suspect that in about 25 years time, when someone is writing in the Caswell Chat about staff being banned from wearing make-up in work, because it′s bad for the skin, somebody will quote 2007 and say, "many years ago it was not uncommon for psychiatric staff to be allowed to smoke moderate amounts of tobacco on duty…" and in case you think I am unsympathetic to smokers, I confess I am one myself, though I hope to stop in April. Why don′t you join me?

Regards, AndyD