HSE steps up smoke-free policy in mental health services

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

Teresa Bulfin, Mental Health Mid-West Community Healthcare
HSE plans to ban smoking throughout the mental health services in Limerick and the Mid-West have been stepped up with the implementation of a tobacco-free policy in community residences.

HSE plans to ban smoking throughout the mental health services in Limerick and the Mid-West have been stepped up with the implementation of a tobacco-free policy in community residences.

The policy, which came into force as of this Monday, applies to all patients, staff and visitors and follows a similar ban which came into effect last October at day hospitals, day centres and child and adolescent services.

It is the HSE’s ambition that all mental health service settings in the Mid-West will be smoke-free by the end of the year.

Teresa Bulfin, senior operations manager, Mental Health Mid-West Community Healthcare, commented: “This second phase of the tobacco-free campus policy being introduced will create a healthier, smoke-free and clean environment for the residents of our community facilities as well as for staff, visitors and contract workers.

“The first phase of this initiative was well-received and widely supported. Providing smoke-free campuses sends out a clear message that we are committed to protecting and promoting the health of our patients, staff and all who use our services. We are committed to reducing the use of tobacco and its harmful health effects.”

The HSE has already confirmed that it will also be clamping down on smoking in acute psychiatric hospitals, a setting which - like prisons - had been exempted from the workplace smoking ban introduced in 2003.

But a new get-tough policy is also to apply here, with the HSE indicating there will be no blanket exemptions and individual patients will only be allowed to smoke having been assessed by a senior clinician or nursing manager.

And this approach, the HSE said, was no more than what this vulnerable cohort of patients deserved to protect them from the serious health problems caused by smoking.

“At any one time, some 50% of persons with mental ill health smoke with this figure being as high as 70% in some acute settings. For this reason many of these patients are much more likely to die of stroke or cardiovascular disease than the general population,” a spokesperson said. “Therefore, there is a duty to prioritise the rights of people with mental ill health and to provide the same protection and health interventions as the general population. The HSE will ensure that clients are supported and treated compassionately in the implementation of this policy.”

The HSE has also launched a new free QUIT support service.

Log onto www.quit.ie or contact the team on 1800 201 203.