We explore the measures taken by the NHS to reduce its carbon footprint and how it can maintain momentum in line with tough new targets
The NHS is the first healthcare system in the world to set binding targets to deliver net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. In this article Hannah Callingham, sustainability team lead at ETL, looks back on the successes of the past year and explores how NHS trusts can maintain that momentum in 2021
Accelerated by the recent Delivering a Net Zero National Health Service report and the BEIS Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme grant funding, sustainability leads across the NHS have converted challenges into opportunities.
Innovation has included exploring reusable PPE, expanding virtual alternatives, and delivering decarbonisation and energy efficiency projects.
Significant progress has been made by the NHS, including it being the first healthcare system in the world to set binding targets to deliver net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 for its direct carbon footprint and by 2045 for its ‘Carbon Footprint Plus’, i.e the carbon emissions from the supply chain.
2021 is going to see a huge drive for net zero across the NHS, with many senior leaders across NHS trusts waking up to its importance and their role in achieving zero carbon by 2040
Using the recently-published Estates Returns Information Collection (ERIC) data for 2019/20, ETL has analysed the sustainability performance across NHS trusts, drawing the following conclusions:
As the NHS continues to vaccinate UK citizens and accelerate the recovery from the pandemic, it is critical to reflect on the lessons learnt and plan for a sustainable future.
The following are five key actions for NHS trusts to consider in order to maintain momentum in 2021:
In 2021, we expect to see a further increase in energy efficiency measures as a direct result of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme grant funding.
The UK’s reliance on gas is the major energy challenge that continues to hinder carbon reduction progress.
To facilitate the transition of our healthcare services to low- and zero-carbon heat networks, NHS trusts must utilise funding opportunities to develop a detailed solution on how to manage future electrical capacity and costs and lead the way in zero carbon for the UK.
With the Greener NHS Campaign and central NHSE/I driving the sustainability agenda across England, Green Plans will need to be in place to set out how trusts are going to meet the net-zero targets.
There will be a stronger emphasis on regional collaboration, with NHS sustainability leads networking to share ideas and collaborate to align their vision and strategy with partners
There will also be a stronger emphasis on regional collaboration, with NHS sustainability leads networking to share ideas and collaborate to align their vision and strategy with partners, such as Integrated Care Systems (ICSs).
Fiona Daly, sustainability lead at NHS England and NHS Improvement, has said: “As we recover from the impacts of the pandemic, we need to ensure we build in new structures for success; nurturing and engaging our young people, bringing green jobs to the forefront of career choices and industry priorities, and building innovative practice into our DNA.
“The case for climate action has never been clearer. Now is the time for us to harness that learning in the health sector, connecting and collaborating to accelerate action on our sustainability programmes.”
And the time for change is now.
Over the past few years, the sustainability agenda has gained traction among public-sector organisations, businesses, and the wider population and the NHS must maintain momentum and build back better.
The UN Climate Change Conference in November will shine a light on the UK’s progress towards net-zero carbon and the NHS, as a global leader in sustainable healthcare, needs to showcase its progress.
NHS trusts must utilise funding opportunities to develop a detailed solution on how to manage future electrical capacity and costs and lead the way in zero carbon for the UK
We must prepare for the transition to a net-zero UK and engage with, and involve, interested individuals, as well as identify key players and influencers to accelerate and drive sustainability programmes.
2021 is going to see a huge drive for net zero across the NHS, with many senior leaders across NHS trusts waking up to its importance and their role in achieving zero carbon by 2040.