As reported by The Guardian, new research has shown that the NHS is a major provider of greenhouse gas in the UK
New research from Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and Arup has highlighted that the NHS produces 5.4% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Globally, the footprint of healthcare accounts for around 4.4% of all C02 emissions.
This is particularly troubling considering that, last year, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report stated we only have 12 years to limit the most devastating impacts of global warming.
The NHS produces higher emissions than the global average for healthcare, creating the equivalent carbon emissions of 11 coal-fired power stations.
However, since implementing its carbon reduction strategy a decade ago, emissions for health and social care have been cut by 18.5%.
But Kristian Steele, an associate at Arup and one of the HCWH report’s authors, says the findings show that the NHS needs to up its game.
“As we continue to work to deliver high standards of quality healthcare, we must also address the environmental burden associated with this. The sector must strive to do no harm by working to cut its carbon emissions.”
This summer, more than 1,000 doctors signed an open letter calling for widespread nonviolent civil disobedience in the face of the environmental crisis.
The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change has recognised the climate crisis.
“While the UK Health Alliance is not calling for health professionals to join strikes during scheduled working hours, we share the fervour of strikers for urgent action to mitigate against the damaging effects of climate change through changes to our behaviours as individuals, members of institutions such as the NHS, and as a country,” says Nicky Philpott, director of the alliance.
“Failure to act quickly will heighten existing national health challenges, place undue financial strain on the NHS, and worsen health inequalities both within the UK and internationally.”
So what can be done? So far, switching anaesthetic gases, using electric ambulances and ‘greening’ dialysis have been proven to be successfully lessening the NHS’s environmental impact for some trusts.
Newcastle – a city which has been has been in the vanguard of sustainability for decades – installed combined heat and power plants in its hospitals in the late 1990s and all electricity bought comes from 100% renewable sources.
It has sent zero waste-to-landfill since 2011 and recycles more than 40% of non-clinical waste (the average in the NHS is 23%).
All procurement contracts include sustainability criteria, while hospital cafes and restaurants provide compostable cutlery and plates.
Newcastle really stands out in what it’s doing with its dialysis services. Its “renal green group” has been working to reduce the environmental impact of dialysis since 2010.
It recycles packaging and used dialysis fluid canisters, while energy-saving measures include the retrofitting of heat recovery technology within dialysis machines.
The trust has also pioneered ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions from anaesthetics, which make up five per cent of acute hospitals’ total emissions and 1.7% of CO2 for the UK’s health and social care sector.
What could your trust do to go greener?