HOSPITAL bosses have said they are powerless to stop people who continue to smoke outside the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals.

Last summer the Lancashire Telegraph reported how groups of patients and visitors were regularly seen puffing cigarettes outside the entrances, with one family complaining about the ‘clouds of smoke’ facing people entering the sites.

Staff at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust staff have since attempted to challenge the smokers and tell them about the ‘no smoking’ policy, but many have seemingly given up after receiving verbal abuse.

Chief nurse Christine Pearson said: “Smoking is prohibited in hospital buildings and in hospital grounds, (but) whilst the criminal law ensures that nobody smokes in our buildings, the law does not apply to our grounds. Therefore, whilst it is anti-social and inconsiderate, it is not illegal.

“We rely on the goodwill and indeed common courtesy of smokers and it is most unsatisfactory that a small number of smokers continue to smoke on our grounds, including hospital entrances without any regard for other people entering and leaving the building.

“Sadly, when they are challenged – as they should be – some even become abusive.”

While staff, including the security guards, are encouraged to challenege the smokers, there is no contractual obligation to do so.

One patient who visited the Royal Blackburn recently, who asked not to be named, said: “As I entered the main reception area I not only had to walk through a cloud of second hand smoke I was greeted not by only patients, either stood or sat in wheelchairs attached to drips, but visitors as well all smoking.

“Non-smokers should not have to enter a hospital and be expected to smell of cigarette smoke.”

He said he approached a member of staff about the issue, who said she did not challenge the smokers any longer after receiving abuse.

Mrs Pearson added: “We would appeal to all users of our hospitals who smoke – patients, visitors and the general public – please observe the signs; be considerate of other people and do not smoke on our grounds”.