THREE hospital sites have announced their commitment to going completely smoke-free as of March 1 after reviewing their archives on smoking advice.

The University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton, the University Hospital of Hartlepool and Peterlee Community Hospital will operate a strict no smoking policy across their grounds, preventing patients, staff and visitors from lighting up.

The Northern Echo:

The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust will ban smoking across its sites from March 1. A team behind the initiative have explored their communications archive to look at messages on smoking in the past

The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust have reported that the national number of smoking-related deaths have soared from around 100,000 deaths related directly to tobacco in 1987, compared to 120,000 just last year.

Julie Gillon, chief executive for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “Smoking statistics for the North-East are sobering to read.

“We have some of the highest rates of smoking related deaths in the country. I am currently working on a project as part of the Yale System Leadership Programme and one of our major pieces of work is centred around smoking in pregnancy.

“Around 65,000 babies are born to mothers who smoke each year. Nationally around ten per cent of expectant mothers will smoke throughout their pregnancy.

“In the North-East that figure almost doubles to 17 per cent. Smoking during pregnancy has an incredibly detrimental impact on the unborn child.

“We must tackle this issue and our sites becoming smoke free on March 1, 2019, is just one of the steps we will take.”

To further understand how smoking issues were previously dealt with by the Trust, a team behind the initiative reviewed messages about the lethal habit across the years.

Ruth Dalton, head of communications and marketing for Trust, said: “We decided to reflect on some of the key messages that our organisation has communicated over the years.

“We are very fortunate to have an extensive back catalogue of old newsletters that date back to the seventies.

“They seemed the most appropriate place to start in terms of what we were saying way back when. The item that stood out for me was a cartoon submitted depicting a ‘Daddy’s Smoking Room’ on a maternity ward circa 1980.

“The thought of its existence – exaggerated for impact or not in 2019 is scandalous. For our Trust, we want the thought of people stood outside our hospital entrances smoking to evoke exactly the same reaction.”

Deepak Dwarakanath, medical director, added: “We would encourage anyone with a tobacco addiction to seek help. We owe it to our patients, visitors and staff to explicitly ban smoking on all of our hospital sites.”