Psychiatric patients launch test case battle for right to smoke while detained

Psychiatric patients have launched a High Court test case battle for the right to smoke while detained in hospital.

As a result of new laws, patients held under the Mental Health Act could unfairly become the only group of people in the country banned from smoking “in the privacy of their own home”, judges were told this month.

Paul Bowen, appearing for patients detained at Rampton top security psychiatric hospital in Nottinghamshire, said others whose homes are in public spaces, such as soldiers and care home patients, will still be able to smoke under special exemptions.

But Rampton patients face a total ban that amounts to unfair and unlawful discrimination, he said.

From July 1, all mental health units would have a complete ban on smoking indoors. Smoking in designated rooms would no longer be permitted.

That would mean a complete ban for those psychiatric patients not allowed outdoors.

In other cases the configuration of psychiatric units would make it impossible for patients to smoke outdoors, argued Mr Bowen.

Patients’ average stay at Rampton is eight years. For some it is for life.

For the vast majority, the hospital is their home under human rights laws.

A Kings Fund survey two years ago reported that almost all mental health nurses do not want smoking banned in psychiatric wards at all, often because they fear that it would spark aggression from patients.

Some do, however, support a total ban.

Vandrine Brookes, a mental health nurse at Royal London Hospital in east London, told psychminded that smoking is no different to self harm and so should be banned.

She added: “As for detained patients, provisions can be made to support and provide locations for these clients, but not at the expense of passive smokers.”

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