A health trust has begun its year-long countdown to becoming smokefree.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has pledged all its hospitals and community sites will be completely smokefree from March 31, 2018.
Figures show 18.7 per cent of adults in the North East still smoke and tobacco use remains the single largest cause of health inequalities and premature death.
Dr Gbenga Afolabi, medical director and respiratory consultant, said: “Having spent my 20-year career caring for people with the deep-rooted ill-effects of smoking I am extremely proud that Northumbria has taken this bold step to go smokefree.
“We have a very important role in helping the region as a whole reduce the number of people who smoke and the many serious illnesses that are linked to smoking.
“By going smokefree, it will mean a much safer and fresher environment for our patients, our visitors and our staff and will bring significant benefits for the health and wellbeing of everyone in our hospitals and using our services.
“Our smokefree ambition also sends a very clear message to our local communities about the need for people to take more responsibility and accountability for their own health and wellbeing.
“Over the next 12 months, we will be engaging with staff, patients and visitors to identify effective ways of supporting them to become smokefree as we work towards making our organisation and every one of our sites smokefree.”
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “We hugely welcome work by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to look at ways they can support more smokers to quit their tobacco dependency.
“Smoking is our single biggest cause of preventable illness and early death and it results in nearly half a million hospital appointments every year.
“There are so many important reasons for hospitals to be helping patients to quit.
“Besides adding years to someone’s life and reducing the risk of re-admissions, quitting smoking can reduce the risk of infections and improve healing after operations. Smokefree hospital grounds are only one small part of a much bigger picture.
“Helping patients to quit is not only effective, but cost effective and can save the NHS huge amounts of money. Most smokers have tried to quit, and yet many more would manage to do so successfully with the help of the NHS.”
Professor Peter Kelly, centre director for Public Health England in the North East, said: “We have made massive progress in the North East since the days in the 1970s when more than half of adults smoked, but more work needs to be done.
“Tobacco dependence is a major cause of cancers, kills people 10-15 years early and is one of the top three reasons for hospital admissions under 75. Smoking for many people is a long-term relapsing condition that we can help to treat.
“A smokefree NHS is a step towards a smokefree society and we will continue our work with NHS partners to help them create supportive environments to help patients quit.”