Smoke-free NHS County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust

Our report captures the views of patients, visitors and staff about the smoke-free policy - “change is in the air”.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust asked Healthwatch County Durham and Healthwatch Darlington to lead a programme of patient, staff and visitor engagement to support the organisation’s ambition to become a smoke-free organisation from 1st October 2019.

The Trust has launched its’ ‘change is in the air’ policy and wanted to carry out engagement on the rationale for the change and what this will mean for staff, patients and visitors. The Trust wanted to gain insight into current views and perceptions, so that it can be used to inform and further develop the communications and engagement plans. The aim was for Healthwatch County Durham and Healthwatch Darlington to provide independent assurance on the engagement process undertaken and provide patient /staff/visitor feedback and views in the form of a report which would help inform the ongoing communications plan and ultimately the success of implementation.


  • There were many positive responses to the new policy. Overall people were in agreement with the policy and felt it was the right thing for the Trust to do. In the survey, 30 people specifically mentioned that they thought it was a good idea. A small number of people wanted the Trust to go further by banning e-cigarettes on site too, so this may be an area where the Trust can provide more information about why they are a vape friendly site.
  • We heard from a number of people that they were still witnessing smoking on both hospital sites, although we cannot be sure if it was on the current visit to the hospital or previous visits before the policy came into operation.
  • A small number of people told us they had either been approached themselves whilst smoking or had seen others approached, but more people had heard the “tannoy” sound system advising people that smoking was not permitted. Because our visits were just a snapshot in time, we are unable to say how effective deterrents to smoking on site are and we are concerned that if there are not effective and consistent approaches made to people smoking, then others will be encouraged to follow suit and the policy will be less successful.
  • The majority of patients and staff had been advised about the new policy and understood what it meant for them. There was less certainty about whether it would help smokers in their ambition to stop smoking.
  • There was a lot of uncertainty about e-cigarettes and how safe they were. This could have been influenced by the fact that just before we carried out our engagement there had been newspaper and TV articles about some deaths that were being linked to e-cigarettes.
  • During our visits we could see plenty of signs and posters both in the hospital grounds and inside the hospital at University Hospital North Durham and Darlington Memorial Hospital giving information about the new policy, however we don’t know whether this could be extended further.


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