HOSPITAL chiefs have sold one of the controversial smoking shelters — and are now looking at alternative ways to enforce the smoking ban at the Royal Bolton.

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust — which runs the Royal Bolton Hospital — made a dramatic U-turn when it decided not to build smoking shelters in June.

Bosses had held a public vote on whether to build three shelters in a bid to stop people smoking at entrances, with 1,629 people voting in favour of the shelters and 1,580 people against.

Now, one of the three shelters has been sold at its original price — about £1,200 — to an anonymous buyer.

The buyer has also expressed an interest in purchasing another of the shelters but if not they will both be used to cover the pay and display machines on visitor car parks, if planning permission is granted by Bolton Council.

Hospital chiefs now say they will work with Public Health at Bolton Council to come up with a new strategy to deter smokers from smoking near the doorway.

Dr Jackie Bene, acting chief executive of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said deterrents could include automated reminders not to smoke near doorways.

Dr Bene added: “There has to be some form of deterrent or automated system to remind people not to smoke.

“There is no legislation for us to enforce the ban so we will be looking to increase visual and automated reminders.

“It really was an even split in the vote and we have a duty to those people who didn’t want to put in smoking shelters.”

Health critics say the smoking shelter saga has been a “learning curve” for trust bosses.

Cllr Martin Donaghy, vice chairman of the Health Overview Scrutiny Committee, said: “I am really glad that the hospital did make the right decision in the end and I hope that the campaign they run will be extremely effective for stopping smoking on the hospital grounds.

“I also hope smokers will get the relevant support to help them quit. I think this has been a steep learning curve for the trust.”