Loud speaker at Larbert hospital will ensure smokers get the message

LARBERT. Forth Valley Royal Hospital. Main entrance.
LARBERT. Forth Valley Royal Hospital. Main entrance.
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Light up as you leave the new Forth Valley Royal Hospital and you’ll get the ‘put it out’ message loud and clear.

Because NHS Forth Valley is installing a loudspeaker smoke alarm at the site as part of efforts to cut the number of smokers in the area by 5000 within two years.

Anyone lighting up outside the new £300 million hospital will trigger the alarm which will tell them to stub it out.

Smoking is banned anywhere on the hospital grounds. And health chiefs are introducing the alarms to sound a ‘cultural change’ so people will find smoking at the hospital no longer acceptable.

Figures show nearly 3000 people in Forth Valley died from smoking-related illnesses in 2010 and that 30 per cent of the populations of both Falkirk and Clackmannanshire are smokers - five per cent more than the national average. Stirling’s figure is lower.

Dr Anne Maree Wallace, the health board’s director of public health, said: “We are committed to our comprehensive tobacco strategy which includes smoking cessation support and have been asked by the Scottish Government to help 5000 people in Forth Valley quit smoking by March 2014.

“It is clear why reducing the number of smokers is one of our top priorities. I’m in no doubt the vast majority of staff, patients and visitors want a smoke-free environment and agree that people smoking outside hospital entrances is unacceptable.”

Health staff in Forth Valley helped 719 men and 995 women quit smoking last year.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are supportive of measures to dissuade people from smoking, particularly where it is not permitted.

“While smoking prevalence has reduced significantly since 1995 and increasing numbers of people are using NHS smoking cessation services in a bid to kick the habit, we need to do more to prevent the children of today becoming tomorrow’s smokers.

“We’ve taken bold measures to highlight the dangers of smoking while Scotland’s smoke-free legislation has undoubtedly reduced exposure to second-hand smoke. We want to build on this and are developing a new comprehensive robust tobacco control strategy for Scotland.”

The smoking alarm is being trialled at the hospital’s main entrance, but more could be installed at other points around the building if it proves successful.

A secondary reason for the loudspeaker alarm is to deter people from throwing their stubs away and littering the grounds.

Mike Mackay, the contract director for Serco which has installed the machine, said: “Despite warning signs telling patients, visitors and staff that smoking is banned in the hospital grounds, people continue to smoke.

“The result is masses of cigarette ends littering the area. Serco employs staff to keep the grounds tidy but it is a constant battle picking up discarded cigarette ends.

“Even lighting a cigarette will set off the message and I hope this will encourage people to stub out hospital smoking.”