Some change is better than no change
22 January 2019
By Hayley Carmichael
Sussex Partnership’s Beth Lawton believes that a little done by a lot can make a big difference when it comes to creating a greener NHS.
Making things better
Chief Digital and Information Officer, Beth Lawton has been at Sussex Partnership precisely one year and two weeks when we met with her to talk about why she’s championing Care Without Carbon, the new Trust strategy for creating a greener NHS.
In part, it’s a natural fit as Beth is also the Exec lead for sustainability, promoting more sustainable healthcare at Board level. But it also fits Beth on a personal level too.
“I love my role here because the opportunity it offers is to make the organisation better. IT traditionally was about take what you’re given, but we’re more collaborative now, I like that people using the tech are informing how we develop it. And I see becoming greener in how we provide our healthcare services as a similar issue. It’s about tapping into what people are motivated to see change.”
As the environmental champion in her previous role, Beth jumped at the opportunity to tackle it again at Sussex Partnership. “I see such waste in how we do things. Take printing for example, as a Trust we consume the paper equivalent of 75 trees per month. Environmentally and financially that isn’t ideal. I’m on a mission to reduce our paper use, and the money we save I hope to channel into further environmental improvement projects, which in turn may bring savings we can use elsewhere, such as patient care.”
We have one world, and Beth believes we need to take better care of it. A trip to India before joining Sussex Partnership brought things into clearer focus; the mounds of plastic with no place to go made her realise that we have the same mounds of plastic in the UK, we’re just hidden from them. She realised that we all need to use less and waste less.
“Without being overly dramatic, we are facing real dangers from the way we’re treating the planet. I want to be part of solving the problem and leaving behind a world that can support us, keep us healthy in mind and body. And I want to encourage as many people as possible to do the same.”
Walking the talk
Beth is putting her beliefs into action, and has signed up to the Dare to Care engagement programme, naturally the ‘paper cut’ dare was her dare of choice. “This was the area I felt I could make the most impact with too, not just personally, but through my role in IT on an organisational level.”
Across Sussex Partnership Beth sees enthusiasm for doing things differently, “We are using plastic free cups and the recent winner of the monthly staff awards did some great work with recycling plastic for decorations in the ward, which is leading to more projects to reduce waste there. I think we need to harness this, so we don’t have a scattergun approach on an organisational level, but target our efforts to particular issues, like using less paper. But in addition, on a local level, people know best what needs to change, and we need to empower staff to make the small changes they see as needed without having to seek permission.”
You have to start somewhere
Care Without Carbon, which launched late last year, is a good start Beth believes, but she acknowledges that more can be done, such as setting up a network of green champions, to grow that local level push for change.
“People don’t need to make massive life changing shifts. This is about small changes at a pace people can cope with. I say try it, if it works great, if it doesn’t then go back to what you did before while looking for an alternative to try next time. We can all do something.”
Thinking about the Dare to Care programme, Beth would love to see more people take the ‘make a meeting virtual’ dare to boost the use of video conferencing. “I know we have some glitches with the system, we are working on those to make it better, even as it is the video conferencing system is a better way to meet that driving somewhere. You save time in your day, you’re reducing your carbon and you save money on fuel.”
Ultimately Beth believes we need nature, she cites the ‘forest bathing’ culture in Japan, where people simply build in regular visits to the forest and stand and soak up the peace. “I think of our service users, and how great it would be if they could look out at wildflower meadow on our wards, we can make that happen.”
Nature needs us too, to stop, think and try something new that can reduce our impact on the environment and ensure nature is around when we need it in the future.