Smoke-free surgery plea

Reporter: Lucy Kenderdine
Date published: 24 August 2016

DOCTORS are appealing to patients across the borough to stub out their cigarettes and stop smoking outside GP surgeries after complaints from other patients.

Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group has urged smokers to refrain from lighting up outside the entrances to practices in a bid to protect people from the effects of direct and passive smoking.

It comes after a complaint was made by cancer patient Nicola Jeffery-Sykes, who said she was fed up of having to walk through clouds of "blue smoke" as she approached her local practice in Saddleworth.

Nicola, from Uppermill, said: "All trusts and surgeries need think about how difficult it is to approach entrances when people are smoking within the grounds.

"I have brittle asthma and going through a barrage of blue smoke every time I attend a local hospital or my local GP surgery is not good for my health, so this matter is very dear to my heart."

The mother-of-one, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 before it returned in 2014 and spread to her uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, took her complaint to Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, who contacted Oldham CCG about taking action.

Mrs Abrahams, a former public health consultant and former Chair of NW ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), said: "When Nicola came to see me, at my one of my advice surgeries, I fully understood why she was so passionate about tackling smoking outside her GP's surgery because, as someone with brittle asthma, the smoke she was inhaling can really affect her condition and even set off an attack.

"Smokers may not realise it but the chemicals they are exhaling can be extremely damaging to people with conditions like brittle asthma and can cause immediate, life-threatening harm.

"I wrote to Oldham CCG on Nicola's behalf about action to stop smoking immediately outside GP practices, health centres and local hospitals including Royal Oldham, and I'm delighted that they have agreed to support Nicola's campaign."

Although legally the CCG cannot enforce a ban on smoking outside a practice in Oldham, doctors and practices are able to provide stop smoking support to people.

Lead GP at Saddleworth Practice, Governing Body member and Quality lead at NHS Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Ian Milnes, said: "We've done a lot of work to provide stop smoking support to people at the practice and we absolutely try and prevent smoking in our grounds, but the key issue for us is, legally, we cannot enforce a ban on site outside of the practice building, either here in Uppermill or in fact anywhere in Oldham.

"We can, and rigidly do, impose a smoking ban inside the buildings but we cannot enforce a ban when the smoker is in the open air - even though they are on NHS property.

"Unfortunately we are not in a position to create and enforce local by-laws but we would obviously firmly encourage patients and their carers to refrain from smoking in the vicinity of any NHS building, whether that is one of our surgeries, the local hospital or any other clinic or walk in centre, to protect themselves and others from the effects of direct and passive smoking."

Smoking-related deaths are higher in Oldham than the national average, with 389 people dying from smoking related disease every year in the Borough, compared to the national figure of 288.

Since April, 2015, all hospital grounds, including health centres and other NHS buildings, in Scotland were made smoke-free, meaning patients, visitors and staff are asked to leave the grounds before they light up.

Oldham has a Stop Smoking Service to offer free support to people in the borough who would like to quit smoking,

The team of professional advisors can offer one-to-one sessions, telephone and text message support, tips and advice about quitting smoking and Nicotine Replacement Therapy

To find out more call 0800 288 9008

The NHS Stop Smoking Helpline is also available by calling 0800 169 0169 or visit

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