A HOSPITAL'S tough anti-smoking policy has been criticised as being damaging to patients' health.

Patients at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle wanting to smoke now have to go outside the building to light up.

Once outside, they must then go in one of three plastic smoking booths.

But the move has prompted criticism from public sector union, Unison, which says patients suffer, as many being forced outside are wheelchair-bound, dressed in bed clothes or even attached to a drip.

The closure was part of the trust's policy of eliminating smoking on the site. Unison is trying to get a smoking room reopened.