A Net Zero Carbon strategy for every NHS trust
16 June 2022
By RJ Heron
Following the release of their climate change strategy in 2020 (Delivering a Net Zero NHS), NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) have supported Trusts across the NHS to put in place a Green Plan. This week every single NHS Trust in England has one; that is over 200 plans to reduce carbon and cut waste.
Why do we need a Green Plan?
The climate crisis is a health crisis; our changing climate is negatively impacting on the health of our communities in Sussex, the UK and across the globe.
The intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) recently published their Sixth Assessment Report. This highlighted the wide-scale destruction, being caused by climate change, affecting billions of people around the world and causing 13 million deaths every year.
At a more local level, heatwaves in 2020 caused 530 excess deaths in the South East alone – more than any other region. Areas with poor air quality in Brighton saw higher than average incidence of lung cancer and deaths due to cancer, circulatory disease and stroke and above average hospital admissions for COPD and stroke.
The way we currently deliver care contributes to carbon emissions; therefore is contributing to our changing climate and the impacts on health.
Our Green Plans help us to reduce these impacts within our communities and around the globe, setting out our path to Net Zero Carbon.
A green road ahead
In 2020 the NHS committed to reduce its carbon emissions and become Net Zero by 2040 for emissions within our control – and 2045 for our indirect emissions, those emissions we don’t directly control but can influence. To ensure this national ambition translates effectively into local action, the Greener NHS team have been working with each Trust to ensure they have a Green Plan in place. These identify the approach being taken to tackling sustainability and meeting the new NHSEI Net Zero targets.
At Sussex Community we have been working on sustainability and carbon reduction since 2010 with our Care Without Carbon (CWC) programme. Over the last 12 months, we have updated the CWC framework and produced a new Green Plan. And we’ve continued our work with other NHS trusts locally, aiming to enhance the impact of our work and reduce duplication by taking a joined up approach. In practice this has meant supporting Trusts in our ICS and further afield on their Green Plan’s, as well as working with Sussex Commissioners to develop an ICS Green Plan based on the CWC framework.
At Sussex Community, our Green Plan sets out our road map to Net Zero Carbon. With 80% of our carbon footprint driven by clinical decisions, critical to the next three years will be embedding sustainability thinking into the fabric of how we deliver care. A steep challenge, getting steeper by the day, but with real benefits to the health of our patient population now and in the future.
What will the results be?
Over the next three years, the implementation of these Green Plans is expected to reduce the NHS carbon footprint by more than a million tonnes, which is the same as taking 520,000 cars off the road!
NHS England Improvement have identified three main ways that Green Plans will improve operations across the NHS; improving care by making it greener, saving lives through cleaner air and reducing costs/waste.
Within our region we have identified three key aims for our Green Plans:
- Reducing environmental impact: delivering care that is Net Zero Carbon, minimising our impact on the environment and respecting natural resources
- Improving wellbeing: supporting the health and wellbeing of our patients, staff and communities.
- Investing in the future: making best value from our financial and other resources through forward thinking, sustainable decision making.
These aims will guide our actions towards Net Zero Carbon by 2040.
Discover how the NHS is becoming Greener
The short video below explains how we will use our Green Plan to reduce our emissions to net zero: