Patient launches court challenge to hospital smoking ban

The ban covers staff, patients, contractors and visitors at all NI health and social care sites
The ban covers staff, patients, contractors and visitors at all NI health and social care sites

A mental health patient has launched a High Court challenge to the newly introduced ban on smoking on hospital grounds across Northern Ireland.

Lawyers for the 23-year-old woman, who is currently detained on an acute psychiatric ward, claim there was a failure to properly consult before the prohibition was introduced.

They also contend that amounts to a form of discrimination against a patient who is currently unable to leave.

Under new legislation no one can smoke on any health and social care site.

It covers all staff, patients, contractors and visitors.

The woman at the centre of the legal action is being detained for up to six months at a hospital in the South Eastern Trust area.

She was granted anonymity as her legal team commenced judicial review proceedings aimed at securing an exemption for those in her position.

Barrister Ronan QC challenged the level of consultation on the issue, claiming that it was mostly trust staff who responded to a survey.

Mr Lavery also predicted it could impact on his client admitting herself to hospital again in future.

“She says it will affect her consent to being there on a voluntary basis if she wasn’t allowed to smoke there,” he told Mr Justice Maguire.

Further grounds of challenge are set to focus on an alleged inferior treatment.

Mr Lavery indicated he will also be claiming the ban is a form of forced cessation of smoking against someone’s will, in breach of mental health legislation.

His application for interim relief that would allow the woman to continue smoking has been put on hold.

The judge confirmed he will decide on that issue after determining whether an arguable case has been established.

With counsel for the South Eastern Trust yet to make any submissions, the case was adjourned until Thursday.

Outside court the patient’s solicitor, Gary Adair of Wilson Nesbitt, said: “My client felt compelled to bring this challenge to the blanket ban on smoking at hospital premises because in her case it amounted to a form of forced cold turkey.

“These proceedings may also have implications for other wards and other trusts.”