Key groups join forces on vision for sustainable future

A vision showing how key organisations in the health and care system will join forces to address sustainability challenges, potentially saving millions of pounds, has been launched.

Reducing carbon emissions, protecting natural resources, preparing communities for severe weather events and promoting healthy lifestyles and environments are key to the concept.

NHS England, Public Health England and the Local Government Association among many others have joined up to shape the ‘Sustainable Development Strategy’, presented today (Wednesday) by NHS England’s Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson, and Public Health England Chief Executive Duncan Selbie.

The strategy is the first to be produced for the whole health and care system, including the NHS, public health and social care.

Sir David Nicholson said: “We are extremely pleased that for the first time the health and care system is pulling together to address our major sustainability challenges such as climate change, pollution and adverse weather events.

“This is an issue close to my heart and we have come a long way since I launched the NHS Carbon Reduction Strategy in 2009.

“Excellent work is already being done across the country which shows sustainability is effective and can impact directly on clinical care and we want to harness their innovation and build on it.”

The plans are twofold with organisations urged to change mentality by encouraging sustainable habits by staff both personally and by adopting more sustainable approaches to business.

The plans also aim to strengthen communities and help them prepare better for the impact of events such as floods, heat waves and cold snaps.

The organisations will work together to understand communities, their vulnerable people and what happens when it is hot or cold in a bid to provide what they need at these times.

They are urging pioneering projects to showcase their success and for other organisations to take notice and replicate.

Examples across the country include in Nottingham where hospital patients are given food which is mostly sourced locally and fresh soup is produced daily for patients and meals on wheels across the city. If 30 trusts in the country did this it could save £6m a year.

And at Barts Health NHS Trust, where a targeted campaign to switch off the lights and close the doors reduced energy wastage, improved the patient experience and saved money. If all Trusts did this it could save £35m and 280,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.

Sir David Nicholson added: “These are great principles but in order to make them a reality we need to embed a culture of sustainable development and innovation into health and social care.

“Staff must be supported and we will facilitate this by using technology and instigating working practices such as telephone follow up or video clinics where appropriate, more teleconferences instead of travel and the recycling of waste water and medical devices where possible.

“We can also use our collective buying power to ensure that medical devices and other products are developed in ways which are ethical and environmentally friendly.”

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, said: “We are delighted to be an integral part of this health and care system-wide approach to sustainable development. PHE will play a particular role in collecting, synthesising and sharing information about the health impacts of environmental and social change and the most effective actions that can be taken to address these. It is only through working in partnership within and across our organisations, and with our communities, that we will unleash the innovation and practical “can do” needed to genuinely improve health and wellbeing.”

The aim is also to reduce the negative impact on the environment by managing energy use and reducing waste by switching to other sources of energy, improving recycling facilities or using fewer disposable items.

Organisations are being encouraged to develop a local strategy, measure their success with regular reporting, and evaluate their progress as well as joining up with local Health and Well-Being Boards.

NHS England and Public Health England fund the Sustainable Development Unit to monitor key success measures identified for 2020 including reducing the carbon footprint by 34 per cent for 2020.

The new strategy includes the first ever calculation of the carbon footprint of the whole NHS, public health and social care system.  This is estimated at 32 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2012, representing 40% of public sector emissions in England.

The strategy is supported by five modules, focussing on particular areas of activity. Three further modules will be launched in January 2015 which will be about technology and research, metrics and social capital. A full consultation will begin soon.

The Sustainable Development Strategy will be launched today (Wednesday January 29) at an event at Central Hall Westminster in London and attended by 300 people from the health and social care community.