Campaigners have criticised University Hospital Southampton after it announced that smoking shelters will be removed.

The hospital said it is removing the shelters as part of a bid to make its grounds a 'smoke-free zone'. 

But Simon Clark, director of the national smokers' group, Forest, has criticised the move branding it "petty and unnecessary".

He said: "Denying smokers the opportunity to have a cigarette when they might be at a low ebb, such as at UHS, is a pathetic and mean-spirited thing to do.

READ MORE: All smoking areas at Southampton hospital to be removed

"While I can understand that hospitals don't want to encourage smoking, the reality is that hospitals can be stressful places for patients, visitors, and even staff.

"Many people smoke to relieve stress, and banning smoking on hospital grounds won't help.

"Smoking in the open air doesn't harm anyone else so there is no good reason to ban it outside."

The group has now urged hospital administrators to "show some compassion and common sense" and permit smoking in outdoor smoking areas with shelters.