HEALTH chiefs in Glasgow have been urged to abandon a "draconian and heavy-handed" policy which bans staff smoking on tea breaks.

Unison has written to NHS Glasgow and Clyde Chief Executive, Robert Calderwood, after staff were warned last week they will be disciplined for lighting up on paid tea breaks - even if they go off site.

The Glasgow branch of Unison has asked that the policy is abandoned pending further discussion and has called a meeting with NHS unions this week.

Branch secretary Matt McLaughlin said the ban would have a "significant impact" on the working lives of staff and criticised the board for pushing ahead with the policy without consulting the union.

The health board has toughened up its ban on visitors, staff and patients smoking in hospital grounds this year with wardens now patrolling sites.

In a letter to NHSGGC, Mr McLaughlin writes: "Unison accepts and acknowledges that smoking is bad for your health and the impact of smoking in Scotland is such that it is a major public health issue.

"However we do not support this draconian and heavy handed approach.

"We certainly do not support wasting valuable time and resource 'disciplining' staff who smoke during breaks be they paid or unpaid.

"We are concerned that this policy has a direct impact on the way that staff live their lives and go about their work.

"We believe that the policy has such a significant impact that it should have been agreed at the Area Partnership Forum and that in rolling it out in he particularly aggressive manner, the Board should have at least spoken to trade unions and senior officials by way of a discussion.

"It is in our opinion no surprise that repeated staff surveys show that stress in on the rise, bullying is a significant issue for staff and violence against staff is still a major problem.

"Add this, major concerns about staffing levels and it is little wonder that our members are angry, disillusioned and down right fed up with NHS Glasgow and Clyde.

"It is noteworthy that a similar bully boy approach was taken over the Boards Car Parking Policy and as expected it has not produced a single positive result."

A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: "Staff are not permitted to smoke during paid breaks.

"Therefore, the only break when a staff member would be able to smoke would be their lunch break.

"However, this must be outwith NHS premises and grounds.

"If any member of staff continues to breach our policy and smoke within our grounds, or smoke while in uniform or anything identifying them as an NHSGGC member of staff, the ultimate sanction would see staff subject to the normal disciplinary procedure."