Roots have been planted to mark a milestone for a health trust.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has planted an ash tree to mark it going truly smokefree.
The trust is replacing its ash trays with ash trees and planting saplings in place of its smoking shelters which have been taken down.
The first ash tree was planted at North Tyneside General Hospital in a ceremony attended by representatives of the trust, the directors of public health in Northumberland and North Tyneside and Fresh.
Northumbria Healthcare is going to be completely smokefree, meaning that smoking will not be permitted in any of its hospitals, community sites or grounds.
New signage has been put up and smokefree messages will sound when smoking is detected at main entrances.
Judith Stonebridge, public health consultant at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The planting of our first tree is a significant milestone on our journey to becoming smokefree and creating a healthier environment for everyone accessing our services.
“Planting ash trees where our smoking shelters once stood demonstrates our commitment to improving our population’s health and will act as a lasting reminder for all to see.
“I’d like to thank everyone involved for their contribution so far and for their on-going support as we all continue in our quest to further reduce the numbers of people who smoke by supporting our patients, visitors and staff to quit.”
Northumbria Healthcare will be the first acute trust in the North East to go truly smokefree and is leading the way in the region’s NHS.
Wendy Burke, director of public health at North Tyneside Council, said: “I am delighted to have been invited to mark this historic day for the trust as they officially go smokefree.
“Smoking remains a principal cause of illness and death in North Tyneside and is the biggest contributor to inequalities in health for residents, these plans present a step change within the NHS locally.”
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “We are delighted at the commitment made and leadership demonstrated by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to embracing a fully smokefree NHS and in ensuring that smokers are given support to stop or manage their tobacco dependency.
“The NHS has a key role to play in achieving the shared North East vision of reducing smoking to no more than 5% adult smoking by 2025 and it is going to be vital to have work across all our hospitals and GP surgeries to ensure that more smokers try to quit each year and get the best help to do so.
“The evidence is strong that reducing smoking is cost effective and can save the NHS millions of pounds.”
People living in North Tyneside can call 0191 643 7171 or visit http://my.northtyneside.gov.uk/category/597/quitting-smoking for details of community pharmacies and GP surgeries which provide stop smoking services.