NHS blows £600k cleaning up after ERI smokers

Smokers outside the ERI. Picture: Joey Kelly
Smokers outside the ERI. Picture: Joey Kelly
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THE NHS has spent £600,000 on cleaners tasked with tidying up discarded cigarette butts at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary since the introduction of the smoking ban, it has been revealed.

The workers, on an average salary of £15,000, have been full-time throughout the day and over weekend shifts cleaning entrances at the Capital’s flagship hospital since the ban began in 2006.

The cleaning costs, which would cover the annual salary of 24 general nurses, have been branded “obscene”, while concerns have also been raised about second-hand smoke drifting into wards through open windows.

In total NHS Lothian hospitals spend £240,000 a year on exterior cleaning staff, with tidying up after smokers one of their biggest challenges. On top of this, an additional £10,000 a year is spent on the maintenance of smoking shelters, signage and painting.

And as NHS Lothian prepares for the introduction of legislation to create smoke-free hospitals next year, they have vowed to do more to tackle the problem.

As part of our Smoke Free Lothian campaign, stringent measures include the creation of no-smoking zones and the removal of bins with ashtrays.

Margaret Watt, of the Scottish Patients Association, said: “This is an obscene waste of money. What is needed is better enforcement – why not hire a warden and fine these people for dropping their butts?

“To have to spend £600,000 over eight years clearing up after smokers is quite shocking.”

George Curley, director of facilities at NHS Lothian, said: “The cost of smoking on hospital sites is considerable. Collection and waste removal is by far the biggest recurring cost at around £240,000 annually.

“This is for our personnel to keep site entrances and open areas free from cigarette butts and discarded rubbish.

“We are keen to encourage individuals who smoke to move away from our buildings in general as the cigarette smoke finds its way back into our facilities, which is a big concern.”

Dr Conor Maguire, consultant physician at the Western General, got so frustrated with the never-ending problem that he suggested painting the pavement outside the entrance to the Royal Victoria Building to deter smokers.

His idea has proved so successful that the “smoke free” hatchings have been painted across numerous areas on the Western General Hospital site, with painting to take place at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital and Astley Ainslie over the coming weeks.

Anti-smoking campaign body ASH Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “We can reduce those clean-up costs through the successful implementation of smoke-free hospital grounds, freeing up that money for patient care instead.”

CHUCKING IT – HOW AND WHERE TO GET HELP

You can get information about your local stop smoking services from Smokeline on 0800 84 84 84, or visit www.canstopsmoking.com where you can also chat online with a trained adviser.

NHS stop smoking services are available throughout the Lothians. Trained, friendly advisers will help you by giving expert advice and practical support.

This can be in a group with other people who are also trying to give up smoking, or as one-to-one support. Advisers can help with choosing medication such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), varenicline (Champix) or bupropion (Zyban).

You can also access NHS support at any community pharmacy.