"Five days ago, author Rich White wrote an article for Freedom to Choose called "Smoker Apartheid Has Arrived".
Rich, and all right-thinking people were incensed at the Royal
Oldham Hospital's callous and thoughtless sign in their maternity ward
"In the interests of others, smokers are not welcome".
Luckily, the piece was brought to the attention of our good friend
and supporter, Godfrey Bloom MEP. Following up on a letter from one of
his constituents, Godfrey took action. He took action because he was
absolutely outraged, and he wrote to the Chief Executive of the Trust
This is the letter:
Mr John Saxby
The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
Trust Headquarters North Manchester General Hospital
Dear Mr Saxby,
I am writing
to you after a complaint by a constituent about access to one of the
hospitals in your Trust, The Royal Oldham. This constituent was
visiting the maternity ward and was surprised to see a prominent sign
which read, "in the interests of others, smokers are not allowed in
this room". Whilst I can understand the wish and need to have the
maternity wing of the hospital as no smoking, this blanket ban on
smokers cannot be justified. Is the hospital really suggesting that a
father who happens to be a smoker is not to be allowed to visit his
child and the mother of that child? What justification can there
possibly be to have such a policy? If it is due to the latest scare,
promoted by the Great Ormand Street hospital
then it is unjustifiable in the extreme. The study referred to here is
unscientific, as it concerns a random telephone poll asking leading
questions about people's opinion. See here
surely a justification of further demonising and marginalising a sector
of society who are merely indulging in a legal activity. A hospital is
a centre of rational thought. This is a study of bias and prejudice. As
such I will be very interested in whether you support the stand taken
by the Royal Oldham.
Godfrey Bloom MEP
Three things stand out to me. All of them make Godfrey a great politician.
1. He listened to his constituent.
2. He promised action.
3. He delivered on his promise.
Mr Bloom can teach all political parties a valuable lesson here. Hopefully they might want to emulate him someday.
The reply from Mr Saxby?
Here you go:
You must know that smoking in hospitals and other public buildings was banned by law in England from 1st July 2007. As such the Royal Oldham Hospital are only ensuring that smoking inside our hospitals does not happen. I suspect however from its wording that the sign is an old one dating back to an era when smoking inside hospitals was permitted. The wording is a trifle clumsy, I grant you. People who choose to smoke can of course come into our hospitals, and many do each and every day. However they cannot smoke when they do so. I will have the old sign removed. We have new notices outside all of buildings telling the public that it is illegal to smoke within Hospital buildings and we have notices at the entrances to all of our hospital sites advising that our grounds and gardens are Non Smoking as well. I take the point that we do not need signs within the buildings as well
No apology. Just "The wording is a little clumsy, I grant you". It was more than clumsy, you unthinking oaf, it was disgraceful, discriminatory, and absolutely wrong.
And just for the record Mr Saxby, your signs saying that your
"grounds and gardens are non smoking" are meaningless. We'll overlook
the fact that they are not your grounds and gardens. They are mine, and every other tax-payer's
in the UK. We paid for them, and we continue to pay for their upkeep.
The Health Act 2006 says that enclosed public spaces were designated as
non smoking. Not the great outdoors. The Latin term for your illegal
signs is ultra vires. In English? It means you are acting outside the law. You have exceeded that which was laid out in the legislation.
In fact, I think I will make a special trip to Oldham so that I can visit my hospital for a smoke in my garden. Let me know where your ivory tower is, the one we paid for and that we pay you to sit in, so that I can wave to you.
As we learned recently, British hospitals between them bury 72,000 of their "mistakes"
every year. Wards are riddled with MRSA. Patients who pop in for an
overnight stay to have a busted knee fixed leave in a coffin.
Perhaps if you concentrated a little more on serious issues like
that, rather than your infantile signs and your unenforceable demands,
we might get something done about those very real deaths?
We pay you to ensure sick people get well and are sent home to their
families. We expect patients, visitors and staff to be treated with
respect and dignity.
Why don't you give that a try?
To Mr Bloom we owe a debt. We thank you for fighting our corner. You are a rare man indeed.
We know you don't smoke, which makes your action in this case especially welcome.
This is a small, sweet victory.
Watch this space. We intend to share many more with you.
Oh yes. One final word to ASH. We know you were almost orgasmic when
you heard about this inhuman sign at the Royal Oldham. John Banzhaf III
immediately embarrassed himself, and his religious movement, by
bleating to all and sundry that the sign was right and proper.
Three words for you:
Screw you John."
We are making a difference. Every small step is a step closer to our own ideal - that which we had and took for granted: personal freedom. We are now on a quest to regain that liberation, and slowly but surely we are taking chunks out of their armour.
Onwards and upwards.