Thousands of lives in England will be saved thanks to a ban on smoking in public places, Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt announced today. The Health Bill delivers the pledge in the Choosing Health White Paper to ban smoking in all enclosed public places apart from licensed premises that do not serve or prepare food and private members' clubs.

This decision reflects the Government's commitment to reduce smoking and to cut the number of smoking related deaths.

The measures will take effect from the summer of 2007. Their impact will be monitored from the outset and a review completed at the end of three years.

Introducing the measures, Patricia Hewitt said:

"This package is a huge step forward for public health and will help reduce deaths from cancer, heart disease and other smoking related diseases. Not only will we be able to protect non-smokers and the large majority of pub workers from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, but we will also provide smokers with an environment where it easier to give up. By bringing forward the implementation of the ban to 2007, we are ensuring that benefits will reach the public sooner. By then 99% of employees will be working in a smoke free environment. Currently, only 51% of people report their workplace as being completely smoke free.

"We believe that these proposals offer the right balance between reducing the public health risk whilst allowing an element of choice for those who do want to smoke with a drink to do so in a way which has minimal impact on other people."

The Health Bill also contains legislation for action on Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs) In England

The four key components of the HCAI legislation are:
v - A new code of practice

- A new duty on NHS bodies providing healthcare to follow the code with a parallel duty on the Healthcare Commission (HC) to assess compliance with it

- A new discretionary power available to the HC to issue an improvement notice

- Directions for improvement or sanctions which may be taken against those who, in the view of the Secretary Of State or Monitor, continue significantly to breach the code.

The Health Secretary added:

"This Bill will make good infection control and hygiene practice a statutory duty for the NHS with more rigorous inspection, clear direction and ultimate sanctions for trusts who fail to deliver. Patients deserve to be treated in a safe clean environment and have the highest standards of care every time. The NHS has already made real improvements, and Chief Executives must now lead everyone in further driving up standards and better protecting patients from avoidable infections."

The Health Bill also includes further measures to improve the range of NHS pharmacy services, provide better governance and management of controlled drugs in the NHS and increase the powers for counter fraud and security management specialists in preventing fraud in the NHS.

1. The Health Bill can be found online at: CLICK HERE.

2. The Public Health White Paper containing proposals on smoking in public places, was published on 16th November 2004 and can be found at: dh/PublicationsAndStatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidanceArticle/fs/en?CONTENT_ID=4094550&chk=aN5CorCLICK HERE.

3. The consultation on these proposals was launched on the 20th June 2005 and ended on the 5th September 2005. There were over 57,000 responses received and the results will be published shortly.

4. The definition of private members clubs as the Bill takes the definition of private members clubs from section 60 of the the Licensing Act 2003. These qualifying clubs (such as the British Legion, working men's or cricket and rugby clubs) are different from other venues or types of clubs becasue they must carry on activities from private premises (to which access is accordingly restricted) and must provide alchohol and other entertainements other than for profit. Further details are set out in the 2003 Act and the explanatory notes to that Act.

5. HCAI's

The Secretary of State will be able to apply the code to any English NHS body (or cross-border Special Health Authority) that provides or commissions health care for patients. Each body will have a duty to observe the parts of the code that apply to them and to minimise the risk of transmission of Health Care Associated Infections between people (including patients, staff and visitors).

The provisions give the Healthcare Commission the responsibility for reviewing observance of the code. Where the Healthcare Commission feels the code is not being properly observed, the provisions give it a new power to issue an improvement notice to NHS bodies where they are of the view that such a course is the best way to bring about the necessary improvements in performance concerning the code. If the body fails to comply with the improvement notice, the Healthcare Commission may write to the Secretary of State (and Monitor in the case of Foundation Trusts) recommending special measures.

However, if the Healthcare Commission feel that a failure to observe the code is sufficiently serious that it should write to the Secretary of State (or Monitor in the case of Foundation Trusts) recommending special measures under existing powers, instead of issuing an improvement notice, then it is able to do so.

The Hygiene Code and consultation paper Action on health care associated infection (HCAI) in England that went out for consultation (now closed) can be found at: CLICK HERE . The responses to consultation will be published shortly.


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