NHS Ayrshire and Arran have admitted that they cannot do anything to stop people smoking within their grounds – despite a policy that was introduced four years ago.

Back in 2015, all health boards across the country launched the smoke-free grounds policy and the Interim Director for Public Health has revealed that there are no legal sanctions they can put in place to stop people from lighting up.

Dr Joy Tomlinson, Joint Director of Public Health (interim), said: “Along with all health boards in Scotland, we launched our Smoke-free Grounds policy in March 2015. We supported this launch with publicity, signage and clear messages for the public.

“While compliance was initially good, given that there are no legal sanctions we can enforce, patients and members of the public have continued to breach the policy. We do work with Environmental Health Officers, who visit our hospital sites and can fine those smoking if they drop tobacco litter.”

But it was revealed that they are hopeful of new legislation from the Scottish government which will allow fines to be handed out to anybody smoking within 15 metres of a hospital although the NHS admitted that they don’t know how much it has cost them to promote the policy.

Dr Tomlinson added: “We are expecting new Scottish Government legislation in 2019/20. This will allow Environmental Health to apply a fixed penalty notice to those who are smoking within 15 metres of a hospital building. When we have the detail of this legislation, we will embark on a communications campaign to ensure that patients and public are aware of the impending change to our Smoke-free Grounds policy.

“We are hopeful that the future legislation will further improve compliance. We take this issue very seriously.”