SCFT gives the NHS a voice in delivering global sustainable healthcare

The NHS has set itself a target to reduce its carbon footprint by 34% by 2020, which follows the UK-wide target established under the Climate Change Act 2008. In turn the UK supports wider, international efforts to tackle climate change.  As members of Healthcare Without Harm Europe, SCFT is now part of this global conversation.


An international issue requires an international response

Climate change knows no borders and is perhaps the greatest international challenge of our time. As such, nations have come together to find ways to tackle it collectively, best encapsulated in the recent Paris Agreement[i] and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Care Without Carbon refers to these international challenges directly in this years’ Annual Sustainability Progress Report.  Many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals have particular relevance for those of us working in healthcare and provide the context for the NHS Sustainable Development Strategy, which SCFT’s strategy (Care Without Carbon) responds to.

[i] The Paris Agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.

Healthcare has a big part to play

Our work in Care Without Carbon (CWC) focuses on achieving three key goals. These are to save money, reduce our impact on the environment and improve the health and wellbeing of NHS staff (and ultimately beyond to patients and our community).

We’ve found that these objectives are intrinsically linked so that, by tackling one of these, we often tackle all three.  This is the essence of sustainable healthcare at SCFT.

Why do we do this? Because the links between health and climate change are so strong it would be ethically irresponsible to do nothing.

Let’s consider just one aspect of our environment, air pollution. Recent studies have shown that it is linked to over 40,000 deaths in the UK annually at a cost to the economy of over £20 billion. If we factor in diseases as well, such as asthma, the cost to the NHS runs into hundreds of millions of pounds.

The solution is elegantly simple, fewer, cleaner cars on our roads with more people choosing to walk and cycle. This hits all three of our goals, saving money, reducing our impact on the environment and improving health and wellbeing.

Of course, delivering this scale of change takes time and collaboration, which are considerations in our strategy.

Working together to achieve more

It is reassuring how seriously healthcare organisations across the globe are taking the threat of climate change.  The CWC team has recently been honoured to accept an invitation to become a member of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe.

HCWH is a coalition of healthcare professionals and organisations from across Europe that lobbies for policy change in support of more sustainable practices in healthcare. It currently has 84 members in 26 countries of the WHO European Region, including 17 Member States of the European Union.

The team are the only NHS representatives in the coalition and will also have the privilege of representing the UK on the European Healthcare Climate Council.

Will Clark, Director of Environment and Transformation at SCFT who heads up Care Without Carbon was recently invited to Bonn, to participate in the HCWH Roundtable event which ran in parallel with COP23 , the global environmental summit. He presented a case study on carbon accounting methods at the event, to share best practice from within the NHS.

He said, “It is clear that the NHS is highly regarded across Europe and that it is leading the way in many areas of sustainable healthcare. Being part of this is both motivational and inspiring. I am sharing SCFT’s work on Care Without Carbon but also benchmarking what we do against an international backdrop. I am proud to be a member of Healthcare Without Harm Europe. It offers a great opportunity to share best practice and focus on finding solutions that really work. Change has to happen collectively, across Trust borders and across international borders as well – we can’t do this in isolation.”

HCWH is a not for profit organisation that funds the attendance of all member bodies, so CWC is able to participate at no cost to the NHS.

As members we are able to add to and access a global pool of knowledge, ideas and experience to drive the delivery of more sustainable healthcare. And perhaps more importantly we are adding our voice to the call for legislative changes, which will shape the future of healthcare across the globe.

[1] The Paris Agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.