The largest hospital trust in Sussex is to ban smoking in all its buildings and grounds next month.

All patients, staff, visitors, contractors and students on Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust sites will be included in the ban.

The trust's new policy also extends to vehicles owned or leased from the trust when being used on hospital business.

The blanket ban will come into force from April 2 but there will be a three month settling in period to give all those affected time to get used to the changes.

The move brings the trust into line with other hospitals in the county, including Worthing and Southlands and East Sussex Hospitals NHS trusts.

The changes have been developed in line with new Government legislation that will lead to a ban on smoking in all public places from July 1.

Further to that, South East Coast Strategic Health Authority has issued guidance urging trusts to bring in a complete ban throughout NHS premises.

Between April and July, staff caught flouting the ban will be referred to smoking cessation services for support and advice but if they continue to smoke while on duty after the three month start-up period they face disciplinary action.

Designated smoking areas around the trust's hospital grounds, which include the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, will be removed.

Staff will be given extra training to learn how to deal with patients and visitors who continue to smoke.

Signs will be put up around the hospitals warning patients about the changes and GPs will also be informed.

All patients coming in for routine appointments and surgery will also be told beforehand.

The new policy was ratified by the trust board at a meeting on Tuesday.

Trust director of nursing Alison Robertson said: "This will have some effect on patients and staff and we have to be careful how we implement it as it will take a while for people to get used to the new policy."

However campaign groups have criticised the decision.

The director of the pro-smoking group Forest, Simon Clarke, said: "We feel very strongly about this.

"A hospital environment can be extremely stressful not just for patients and visitors but for staff as well who have to see some terrible things.

"We already have the sight of people in drips and wheelchairs having to stand outside to have cigarettes but now they are being told they cannot even do that any more."

Are you for or against the smoking ban? Have your say, add your comments below.