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Getting people well

What patients think about more sustainable medicines and medical equipment when in NHS care

Various medicines in packaging

Our research

We asked over 800 patients in Sussex and Surrey if they supported the NHS making changes to medicines (such as swapping inhalers or return of unused pharma) and equipment (such as reuse of gowns, crutches, or a wheelchair which have been cleaned and made safe) if it was better for the environment without impacting care.

“The NHS has a huge impact that can be reduced… they sterilize surgical instruments, why don’t they sterilize more things?” Survey respondent based in Surrey.

Waste relating to prescriptions was seen as a big problem and people want to see this reduced – it is also seen as a potential cost saver for the NHS too and patients understand the pressure on NHS finances more than they understand the carbon impact of healthcare.

There was more concern around swapping medicines such as inhalers for lower carbon alternatives although 74% of people in a focus group supported such as switch.

What does that mean for healthcare providers?

We need to find ways to make recycling and returning medicine packs and bottles easy and accessible (fair) for people to do, and perhaps work with pharmacies and supermarkets to enable this.

The same applies to equipment, there is a real will to see equipment reused to reduce waste but people don’t know how or where to do that.

“A friend broke her leg, she has still got 2 pairs of crutches and wheelchair in her garage, I was staggered. The cost and expense is ludicrous.” Sussex based survey respondent.

When it comes to lower carbon medicines people are less certain and we need to make sure that we clearly explain that any changes are medically appropriate and the alternatives are not natural remedies.

Where do we go from here?

Our Green Plan sets out our actions for reducing our carbon emissions in relation to medicines and medical equipment, read the Circular Economy section to find out how. In bringing the ‘Respecting resources’ sustainable healthcare principle to your work you can also help us create changes in how we deliver care.