NHS Highland has decided to extend the general ban on smoking in enclosed public areas throughout Scotland to cover all the grounds around its premises because, as Chairman Garry Coutts puts it:
"Smoking is the single biggest cause of illness in Highland and we cannot be seen to condone it anywhere on our premises. However we accept that there are still issues we have to iron out with staff and we will do this before formally agreeing to introduce a site-wide ban. We will also ensure that staff and patients have access to help to give up smoking."
Now as anyone who knows me, or indeed who has read this blog off and on, must be aware I have never smoked and abhor the practice - nevertheless I do not have the 'militant' anti-smoking attitude of some people who are often, in my experience, usually former smokers themselves.
However the reasoning behind this change in policy by NHS Highland is wrong-headed, it seems to me, on a number of counts:
- First, what is this about "cannot be seen to condone it"? The Scottish Parliament, God love 'em(!), has decided in its wisdom to ban smoking in all enclosed public premises, but they have not yet chosen to ban it in open-air locations throughout the country. Since when did NHS Highland become a quasi legislative body?
- Second, smoking remains (apart from in enclosed public spaces) a legal activity and whilst I personally find it unattractive to see huddled groups of people outside offices, pubs, restaurants [and yes, Raigmore Hospital, too] smoking cigarettes in a furtive manner, I am aware that nicotine is an addictive substance which it is difficult to stop using once one has become addicted to it;
- Third, Mr Coutts seems to be confused about the purpose of the NHS. It is to serve the needs of ill people. Mr Coutts's qualms about introducing this latest extension of the 'holier than thou' and 'nanny state' aspect of living in Scotland is because "there are still issues we have to iron out with staff". The reality is that in [the 'socialist republic' of] Scotland one must tread extremely warily when contemplating any change in the publically-funded sector of the economy because although people working in such sectors are supposed to be serving the public, the way in which such services operate is in practice entirely centred around the whims of the employees. And of course the public sector of the economy is huge in Scotland generally and even larger in areas such as the Highlands. It really is just like being in the former communist Eastern Europe, except that we haven't had our revolution against the tyranny of Socialism. Yet.
- Fourth the 'nanny state', which Mr Coutts wishes to strengthen, deigns to include some lip service "exemption for patients who staff feel are considerably distressed, anxious or vulnerable" - but I bet that those patients who may be extremely unwell (perhaps even as a result of smoking-related illnesses) will be made to feel as guilty and as uncomfortable as possible if they try and avail themselves of this exemption. Frankly it must be an awful prospect for some elderly lifelong smoker faced with the necessity of going into hospital in Scotland - that really is 'cruel and unusual treatment' under the false mask of patient concern - when what people need is good care in a relaxed and stress-free environment; and few things are more stressful for an addict than depriving them of the thing to which they are addicted when they are ill and vulnerable in hospital.
In summary, Mr Coutts, your method of running the business you are entrusted with sucks!
PS/ And don't get me started about this latest piece of nonsense in the inefficient socialist-run NHS! I speak of course about the apparently loss-making Patienline, the monopoly provider of communications services for patients in hospitals which wants to increase its charges for outgoing and incoming call by huge amounts. I think there has to be something wrong with their 'business' model, don't you?