STAFF, patients, carers and visitors will be banned from smoking tobacco, vaping and using e-cigarettes on any Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust sites from the start of next year.

The only exceptions to the smokefree move will be patients at the end of their lives and mental health inpatients, who will be allowed to use non-rechargeable e-cigarettes as part of their nicotine dependence treatment.

The trust provides a range of community health, mental health and learning disability services in the county, as well as some regional specialist services to patients from across the South West.

Paul Milverton, Somerset Partnership’s head of mental health nursing, said: "As an NHS trust, we have a responsibility to make sure we provide a safe, healthy environment for staff, patients and visitors, so it makes sense that we go completely smoke free.

"We know that tobacco smoking is the main cause of preventable illness and premature death in England.

"It causes a wide range of diseases and medical conditions, including cancers, respiratory diseases, coronary heart disease, impotence and infertility. One in two long-term smokers die prematurely as a result of smoking.

"People who experience a mental health problem are in a particularly high risk group and have a reduced life expectancy of around 10 to 20 years.

"We have a duty to all our patients to support them to be smoke free when in our care, and to encourage them to remain smoke free in future."

Mr Milverton said he appreciates it is difficult for smokes to give up and so support will be available to patients who want to quit.

He added: "Trained stop smoking practitioners will be available on all inpatient wards to provide support and practical help for patients with nicotine dependence – this could include Nicotine Replacement Therapy in the form of patches, gum, tablets or e-cigarettes and behavioural interventions."

Patients anticipating admission to one of the trust's wards can call Smokefreelife Somerset on 01823-356222 for advice and practical help during their stay.

Smokefree Somerset also offers support for people quitting smoking completely.