HEALTH officials have admitted a ban on smoking at Oxfordshire’s hospitals has failed to stub out the problem.

They are reviewing the situation as a “matter of urgency” after receiving complaints about staff and other people lighting up, despite the habit being outlawed at all four of their sites.

Carterton resident Andrew Whitehead took a picture of what appears to be a member of staff smoking in grounds of the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford when he went in for a check-up recently. He said: “If they say it is a no- smoking site, then they have to enforce it.

“Parking is prohibited in any part of the hospital, except the designated areas, and the hospital ensures this is adhered to.

“There are areas where the public are prohibited and the hospital ensures the public stay out. Why would the hospital not ensure another of its rules is adhered to?”

In March the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUHT) relaunched its no smoking policy on National No Smoking Day.

The aim was to stop smoking at the JR, the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre an the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, and at The Horton Hospital in Banbury.

A health bus visited the sites to promote the policy and offer support and advice to patients, visitors and staff.

The trust said it there had been problems enforcing a total ban.

Director of workforce Sue Donaldson said: “Smoking is currently prohibited on our four hospital sites and there are no designated areas for staff, patients and visitors.

“However, it has not been possible to enforce the current policy in all areas and we are now reviewing it to consider what other measures can be put in place.

“We would hope that everyone would respect our efforts to deter smoking on our sites.”

It is not known how long the review will take.

Mr Whitehead, 62, wrote to the chief executive of the OUHT, Sir Jonathan Michael, about the problem.

Sir Jonathan wrote back to say the trust realised it had to do more and that the policy needed proper enforcement.

Smoking was banned outright at the hospitals on January 1, 2007.

The trust said there had been four formal complaints between April last year and March this year over smoking at its hospitals.

Recently, larger ‘No Smoking’ signs have been placed at the main entrances of all four hospitals. A spokesman for anti-smoking campaign Ash said: “Many hospitals have found it difficult to eradicate smoking from their grounds, despite bans. It is disappointing, as clearly smoking and tobacco have no place near a hospital.

“Mr Whitehead’s interjection is timely, given the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is consulting on this particular issue and advising on what action hospitals must take to create smoke-free environments.”

Nice is an independent body but answers to the Department of Health.

It says there should be better management of hospital sites and better attitudes to confronting smokers about their habit, whether they are staff, patients or visitors.