A BAN on smoking is to be strictly enforced in Wirral hospitals from next week.

Staff and visitors will not be allowed to smoke on the premises or grounds as part of a new public health campaign.

The ban, coming into force on Monday, February 3, also applies to Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and East Cheshire NHS Trust.

Fiona Johnstone, Wirral council’s director of public health, said: “Tobacco smoking is the main cause of preventable and premature death in the UK – and the NHS spends £2.7bn a year treating smoking-related illnesses.

“I am delighted that local NHS Trusts are taking this approach to protect the health of people who use, and work in, their services.

“Allowing smoking within hospital grounds and not supporting people who use NHS services to manage their nicotine dependency gives confusing messages.

“No level of smoking or second-hand smoke is safe.

“The NHS has encouraged people not to smoke on their premises for some time, but the message now is clear: ‘you can’t smoke in these hospital sites’”

Ms Johnston said people with nicotine dependency will be offered help and encouraged to access specialist support services.

“Hopefully many people will go on to give up smoking for good and fully realise the health and social benefits of this,” she said.

The campaign has been launched by Public Health Wirral with local NHS Trusts and Heart of Mersey.

The move coincides with the publication in late November of public health guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

This guidance recommends all NHS hospitals and clinics take appropriate action to assist a safe, smokefree environment for all.

In a statement, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: "Smoking is prohibited in Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge Hospital grounds.  Over the previous twelve months we have had a high profile campaign running throughout our hospitals which offers encouragement, advice and support for patients, visitors and staff to stop smoking.

"Any staff who are identified smoking in our hospital grounds will be subject to appropriate action. 

"Patients and visitors who smoke on the premises will be approached, asked to stop and appropriate advice given but we will be mindful of any distress or vulnerable condition they may be in."