HOSPITAL chiefs have said smoking is one of its biggest sources of complaints despite it being banned on their sites.

East Lancashire Hospitals Trust (ELHT) operates a blanket ban on e-cigarettes and tobacco at any of its sites, which include Royal Blackburn and Burnley General Teaching Hospitals and Accrington Victoria and Pendle and Clitheroe community hospitals.

But the trust said that despite extra signage, frequent patrols and polite requests not to smoke, smoking remains a major cause of complaints it receives.

A trust spokesman said: "The trust is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of our patients, visitors and staff and has been a smoke free organisation for a number of years.

"Yet despite extra signage, frequent patrols and polite requests not to smoke, smoking remains a major cause of complaints to the Trust. We ask the community to support our smoke-free status by not smoking on any of our sites, and particularly at the entrances to buildings.

"We’re also here to help people quit smoking. Members of our Smokefree team offer support and advice every day about the benefits to health and wellbeing of stopping smoking to patients and visitors alike."

It comes after volunteers picked up hundreds of cigarette butts on the Royal Blackburn Hospital grounds earlier this year, while in the past trust chief executive Kevin McGee said he has seen people puffing cigarettes on the site.

The trust said it is fully supportive of a call by Public Health England for all NHS hospital to be smoke free. PHE has found that, although, more than two thirds (69 per cent) of hospital trusts have now banned smoking completely on the grounds, almost a third (31 per cent) have not yet enforced total smoking bans across hospital premises.

The trust said: “We fully support Public Health England’s call for all NHS hospitals to be entirely smoke free – our own five hospitals are all smoke free sites. These are the Royal Blackburn, Burnley General and three community hospitals in Pendle, Clitheroe and Accrington."

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, who has made calls in the past for smokers to be fined for dropping cigarette butts, said he sees people smoking on the Royal Blackburn Hospital grounds all the time.

He said: "You see people smoking all the time at the foyer of the hospital. There isn't a lot more the hospital can do as there is signage and patrols but maybe they could start fining people with council-style enforcement as I've said before."

Duncan Selbie, chief executive at PHE added: "It cannot be right that it is more acceptable in some hospitals to smoke at the front door than it is outside a pub.