A Sustainable, Net Zero Carbon Health and Care System

Living Magazines NHS Net zero

A plan to reduce the carbon footprint of the local health care system has been formally agreed, as part of the NHS’s ambition to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Last week, the Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care System (ICS) signed off a green plan for the future of the health and care system, including how different organisations will collaborate to reduce the NHS carbon footprint and build an ICS resilient to the forecast climate change in ways that help reduce health inequalities and improve health outcomes.

The ICS is made up of statutory and voluntary sector organisations working together to improve the health outcomes of the people living in Hertfordshire and west Essex. The plan was agreed during a meeting of the boards of the three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in the ICS area on Thursday 24 March.

Each NHS trust and local authority has its own Green Plan. The ICS plan details the organisations’ actions to reduce climate change’s impact on the people living in Hertfordshire and west Essex in order that the NHS is carbon neutral by 2040. The priorities set out in the green plan will be achieved in several ways. Firstly, by ensuring all the partners and providers understand how they can contribute and improve awareness of the impacts of their actions. The system will work with the local community and all system staff to deliver meaningful transformation and improvement projects that reduce the environmental impact of healthcare services.

Peter Wightman, Executive lead for sustainability and Managing Director for West Essex CCG, said: ‘The links between human health, climate change and biodiversity loss are clear, and the NHS has a responsibility to take action. The ICS is committed to doing everything it can to address this for the benefit of patients, staff and local communities.

‘We have already made some good progress to date. For example, all of our NHS partners have reduced the use of a gas in surgery (called desflurane) to as little as practically possible. Some have reduced usage by up to 95%. In addition, two of our hospital trusts undertaking hospital redevelopments have been planning with a net zero carbon design and operations in mind. We have also delivered fuel poor grants, upgrading homes in Essex with free energy efficiency improvements. Delivery of the Green Plan will be based on continuous learning and innovation, co-designed with the involvement of its people and wider stakeholders.’

Some ambitious future goals are outlined in the plan, such as ensuring all electricity is generated from renewable energy sources. In addition, the system will reduce its carbon impact by promoting green and active travel.

Peter added: ‘It is also key that the NHS is future-proofed through sustainable models of care, which means we will use hospital design, care pathways and digital tools to reduce environmental impact and prevalence of disease and bring care closer to home.’

More information on the Greener NHS can be found at england.nhs.uk and the ICS green plan can be found at healthierfuture.org.uk/HWE-sustainability-plan.