Greener AHPs: Taking action towards a Net Zero NHS

In October 2020 the NHS became the world’s first national health system to commit to become net zero carbon, in response to the health threat posed by climate change. Since then, our team has been identifying and promoting opportunities for allied health professionals (AHPs) to contribute.

AHPs are the third largest clinical workforce, with more than 180,000 AHPs delivering health and care services in England. As a collective, AHPs can make a significant contribution toward limiting our environmental impact, reducing our carbon footprint, and improving the health of the population. Tackling climate change through reducing harmful carbon emissions will improve health and save lives.

The NHS has already seen a reduction in emissions across medicines, transport, and hospitals and through lower-carbon ways to care. Through our Greener AHP programme we found that AHPs are actively contributing to this achievement, both personally and professionally, supporting the journey towards a greener NHS.

From new, more sustainable models of care to a review of decisions around issuing equipment, there are many opportunities where AHPs can make a difference. The Greener AHP Hub, launched on the 7 October 2021, highlights these opportunities and actions, using examples and case studies across the professions. The actions we are taking are part of a collective effort to improve health now and for generations to come, but there is more we can and must do.

The launch of the Greener AHP Hub marks a new phase of commitment and implementation. The Greener AHP Delivery Group, comprised of the professional bodies, Health Education England, Department of Health and Social Care, Greener NHS colleagues and other key stakeholders, will continue to drive forward this agenda, raising the profile of the role of AHPs’ contribution to delivering a Net Zero NHS, and supporting AHPs to consider environmental sustainability as ‘business as usual’.

We will remain committed to this work going forward, which will also be captured as a priority in our next AHP strategy for England. In addition to this, we have  another three key commitments: to provide ongoing advice and support to the development and delivery of the net zero agenda through connection with the Greener NHS team; continued development of resources and communications to highlight the role of AHPs in a Net Zero NHS; and ongoing review of our own strategic decision making and travel requirements as a national office to minimise environmental impact.

It is imperative that we act now to reduce the environmental impact of our services and respond to the climate emergency with urgency. We know our changing environment has direct and immediate consequences for our patients, the public and the NHS and we know through our Greener AHP programme that AHPs can and are leading in this space.

Alongside compassionate and inclusive care, AHPs can deliver environmentally sustainable services. We all play a vital role in making change happen, and we hope every AHP will commit to taking action toward delivering a Net Zero NHS.

Suzanne Rastrick

Suzanne qualified as an Occupational Therapist from Oxford. Suzanne was the first Allied Health Professional (AHP) to hold a substantive Director of Nursing post in both provider and commissioning organisations. She became the Chief Executive of a Primary Care Trust, where a particular highlight was having leadership responsibility for delivering health resilience and health ‘blue light’ services during the Olympic sailing events held in Dorset in 2012. She subsequently gained authorisation for a large Clinical Commissioning Group, before moving to her current post with NHS England. She was appointed as Chief Allied Health Professions Officer for England in September 2014.

In 2017 Suzanne launched the first AHP strategy for England which has been recognised as ground-breaking in policy development from its use of crowdsourcing. Building on this, Suzanne published the second AHP strategy – ‘AHPs Deliver’ in June 2022. This iteration had a greater emphasis on patient, public voice and specifically the inclusion of those who may be digitally excluded along with communities who may find it difficult to connect with traditional consultation methods. The result is a national strategy crowdsourced from diverse populations for people and communities AHPs serve.

For over three decades, Suzanne has held non-executive portfolios outside of the NHS, including audit committee chair roles, predominantly in the housing and charitable sector. Suzanne was recognised as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s birthday honours list 2019. In 2023 Suzanne was awarded a Visiting Professor role at St George’s, University of London and at Oxford Brookes University.

Follow Suzanne on Twitter/X @SuzanneRastrick or Instagram @chief_ahp_officer_england