Climate change poses a major threat to our health as well as our planet. The environment is changing, that change is accelerating, and this has direct and immediate consequences for patients, the public and the NHS. This is why the NHS has launched the ‘For a greener NHS’ programme.
Why is this important?
While the NHS is already a world leader in sustainability, as the biggest employer in this country and comprising nearly a tenth of the UK economy, we’re both part of the problem and part of the solution. The causes of air pollution and climate change are often the same. The health and care system in England is responsible for an estimated 4-5% of the country’s carbon footprint and air pollution is linked to killer conditions like heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, contributing to around 36,000 deaths annually. The changing climate is also leading to more frequent heatwaves and extreme weather events such as flooding, including the potential spread of infectious diseases to the UK. Almost 900 people were killed by the heatwaves of 2019, while Lyme Disease and Encephalitis are among conditions expected to become more common as temperatures rise.
What are Sussex NHS Commissioners doing about it?
All NHS organisations are required to come up with plans which will improve their sustainability, and help meet the following national targets:
- By 2025, reduce the NHS carbon footprint by 51% against 2007 levels
- By 2023/24, cut business mileages and fleet air pollutant emissions by 20%
- Deliver reductions in single use plastics throughout the NHS supply chain
Sussex NHS Commissioners are working with the award-winning Care Without Carbon programme to draw up their Sustainable Development and Management Plan (SDMP) or “Green Plan” which will not only look at the how we operate but will also look at the scope to improve the sustainability of the services we commission on behalf of our populations.
The plan, which will cover a number of different areas such as energy, estates, transport, procurement, waste management, clinical practice and staff culture, should be ready by autumn 2020 and will be the basis for the agreement of a common set of goals across health and care partners in Sussex. An important part of plan is to establish measurable targets, so that delivery and benefits can be carefully monitored.