HOSPITAL workers have been warned they face the sack if they are caught smoking outside Edinburgh Royal Infirmary under a tough new crackdown.
The drive has been launched after the Evening News revealed how staff, visitors and patients were flouting the rules to light up outside entrances and wards.
Balfour Beatty Workplace, which employs almost 550 staff who work delivering services at the hospital including cleaning and maintenance, has now told its workers that anyone caught will face disciplinary action for misconduct.
NHS Lothian also moved to warn its staff that they too could face disciplinary action if they ignored the rules and smoked anywhere other than official smoking shelters. The problem is said to have improved dramatically in recent weeks.
Charlie Neilson, the hospital’s operations manager for Balfour Beatty Workplace, sent the warning memo to employees.
“When the News story broke, I spoke to two or three domestics directly,” he said. “I also cascaded a memo to Balfour Beatty Workplace employees highlighting the issue of smoking outside designated areas and that if they do it, we could go down the formal disciplinary route.
“We have sent a very strong message to all of our staff on the Royal Infirmary campus, including management.
“I would say that in recent weeks, the smoking shelters have been very busy and it’s a huge positive that unofficial smoking areas are not as populated as they were.”
Bright green ground markings to deter smoking, which have proved a success at the new Royal Victoria Building at the Western General, could also be introduced at the ERI in the hope they make a difference.
Automated loudspeaker announcements reminding people of the rules are also to be reintroduced.
One source said that while there would commonly be three to four people in smoking shelters at a time, the figure had soared to between 25 and 30 in recent weeks. Smoking is to be banned across all Scottish hospital sites by 2015.
Lyn McDonald, NHS Lothian’s hospital site director at the ERI, said: “Over the past few weeks we have noticed a marked reduction in the number of people smoking outside the front of the hospital.
“It would appear that more people are making use of the designated smoking shelters and we certainly appreciate that smokers are taking other hospital users into account and are using the areas provided.”
Culprits ignore official policy
NHS Lothian’s official smoking policy, which has been in place since 2006, states that lighting up is not allowed in any of its property, around entrances or buildings.
But when we visited the Royal Infirmary last month we found dozens of smokers, including hospital staff, hanging around outside.
It appeared that chairs had even been placed outside the hospital to create a makeshift smoking area.
Unions stated that when staff attempted to intervene, they could be subjected to foul-mouthed abuse from smokers.
The investigation sparked calls for the health board to consider hiring its own anti-smoking wardens, which have been appointed around the Glasgow area.