It was reported today that the Great Western Hospital in Swindon has hired two smoking wardens on up to £15,000 a year to police the hospital gorunds and stop people lighting up in the grounds.
The first and most important problem is that this is a blatant misallocation of public funds. It is already, rightly, against the law to smoke inside a hospital, or in the lobby, or outside the lobby. This makes a lot of sense. But, at a time when the NHS is buckling under increased demand for primary healthcare and spending cuts, and taxpayers are struggling to get doctor's appointments and the right cancer drugs, couldn't the hospital have put this money to better use?
£30,000 could have been used for new equipment, an extra nurse, or a pay rise for over-worked existing staff. Obviously it is undesirable to have fag smoke puffed directly into the face of someone who has just had their kidney stones removed. But this is not happening and hasn't happened for years, so I see no need for two additional people on this hospital's payroll.
The second problem is, these wardens have no executive powers, i.e. they can't actually force people to stop smoking. Which makes it even more difficult to see how they are effective, or indeed even useful.
It's a matter of priorities, really. Once again, instead of tackling larger problems such as hospital hygiene and stressed-out staff, the NHS continues to pump money into gimmicks that are netiher needed nor wanted.