The Sustainable Development Unit for NHS England and Public Health England

Over £400m of potential savings that can reduce carbon emissions by 1 million tonnes

The NHS could save over £400m and cut 1 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year by 2020 through making changes that can also benefit people’s health.

A new report by the Sustainable Development Unit for NHS England and Public Health England selected 35 areas and calculated their financial and environmental benefits.

The Securing Healthy Returns report outlines areas that offer potential cash savings and environmental benefits. These include providing mental health services to people being treated for physical health needs in hospitals, encouraging staff to travel to work by bike or foot and increasing use of technology for communication – for instance between staff and for patients with long term conditions.

The analysis follows on from the Carter Review which identified potential efficiencies in NHS hospitals worth up to £1.3bn and included interventions with environmental co-benefits such as improved energy efficiency.

This analysis looks at the financial and environmental benefits for initiatives in areas as broad as prevention and changing models of care. The report shows there are big savings both financially and environmentally from proactively addressing issues like air quality and fuel poverty – which would improve people’s health, reduce inequalities and save the NHS money.

To help organisations consider what difference they could make in cash and carbon, the report worked with energy efficiency verification specialists EEVS and sustainability software vendor Trakeo to produce an online tool to scale the 35 interventions according to organisation.

The Your Carbon Cost Benefit Curve tool enables users to enter specific details of their organisation such as staff numbers, floor space and operations. Users then select the interventions they want to include and the system will calculate the potential financial savings and reduction in tonnes of carbon.

For instance an average sized hospital with 3,000 staff and performing 60,000 operations a year could save up to £2.2m and cut 3,000 tonnes of carbon per year – the same as taking 1,300 cars off the road for a year.

The 35 areas were selected based on real life examples taking place at health and care organisations across England. These have been analysed to show the levels of savings they can offer by implementing at a national and local level.

David Pencheon, Director, Sustainable Development Unit said: “We know that the NHS and health sector is facing its greatest financial challenge, and we need to seize every opportunity to realise savings and efficiencies.

“But we also know that seeking financial savings without considering the long term social and environmental implications can be dangerously short sighted in terms of health protection and improvement.

“This report and supporting resources help organisations to identify opportunities that can save money now and have a positive environmental effect – which will save money and improve health, now and in the future.  We don’t have to choose between saving money and protecting the environment – we can make decisions that will do both as well as improve people’s health.”


  1. Ian Wilson says:

    So why are NHS sites not allowed to install solar panels under the terms of the contract for premises?? Other public buildings such as town halls/libraries etc can install, but unless a loophole exists of which I am not aware, we cannot……

    Also installation of low capacity wind turbines is not feasible on NHS property, nor is heat source technology.

    Have tried to be as sustainable as possible here, but the NHS ‘rules’ do not help…..for example there are no grants available to switch to LED lighting fixtures, and too expensive just to ‘bulk switch’ units that are 5-6 years old.

    More ‘creativity’ nationally would be good – facilitation of ‘green ideas’ would be much appreciated. Carbon reduction ideas exchange roll-out would be a great start please….

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Ian,

      Thank you for your comment.

      It is good to hear of a General Practice demonstrating the values supported nationally by the RGCP policy statement on climate change, sustainable development and health. We are aware there are limitations placed on what sustainability interventions can be implemented at GP practices based on the tenancy arrangements and contracts in place. However there may still be opportunities for support and potentially funding. Please contact the SDU directly to discuss your situation and they will be able to advise you or point you in the direction of guidance and support. Please email

      Many thanks
      NHS England