A hospital has sparked outrage by announcing they are to erect a smoking shelter – outside a cancer ward.
Bosses at the new £400 million University Hospital of North Staffordshire have applied for planning permission for five shelters on site after patients repeatedly ignored the no-smoking policy.
They will be put up outside the hospital’s maternity block, two main entrances and its accident and emergency unit.
But the final shelter is to be installed outside the hospital’s cancer ward – a move which has infuriated victims of the disease and charities.
Cancer survivor Harry Larkins, 70, from Cheadle, Staffs., who still has annual check-ups after beating the disease in 2009, slammed the decision.
He said: “I know they have to accommodate smokers, but a lot of people in the cancer ward have smoked throughout their lives and don’t need reminding that could be the reason they are there.
“It’s just plain insensitive. It is a huge site and they could put them somewhere a lot more discreet. I think it’s a terrible error of judgement.”
Ron Locker, founder of the Staffordshire Moorlands Cancer Support Group, said: “I understand the difficulty of people who have been smoking all their lives to just quit.
“But it is not pleasant for patients heading into hospital to have to walk through people smoking outside.”
Councillor Colin Eastwood, chairman of Newcastle Borough Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, said: “I don’t feel the shelters are really addressing the problem of smoking. It is almost like condoning smoking.
“Smoking is a real issue in the local area and it concerns me that the hospital is providing for them.
“What they should be doing is supporting smokers who are admitted to hospital to quit the habit.”
Hospital officials yesterday refused to explain why a smoking shelter was planned for the cancer centre.
Chief Nurse Liz Rix said: “We do not condone smoking on our premises by patients, visitors or staff.
“However, a degree of pragmatism has been adopted to keep the hospital clean and tidy and smokers away from building entrances.
“The beautiful main entrance has become a particular problem area with a large number of smokers congregating and at times it has been difficult to keep the area clean.
“We accept this has caused problems for neighbouring residential areas and are working with unions to see what actions can be taken to alleviate this.
“We enforce a blanket ban on staff smoking on our property and staff will not be allowed to use the shelters.”
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is expected to rule on the planning application in the middle of February.