Moving towards a greener general practice

Case study summary

Colton Mill Medical Centre in Colton, East Leeds, were inspired to implement a number of changes within their general practice to reduce their carbon footprint, after reading the NHS Green Plan and the Royal College of General Practitioners Sustainable development, climate change and green issues statement.


The NHS Green Plan was created to support the publication of the Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service report; a comprehensive publication that provides a national-level framework for action on climate change and sustainability, and states that ‘every NHS organisation has an essential role to play in meeting this ambition’. The NHS Green Plan outlines how NHS organisations can produce a ‘three year strategy towards net zero’, offering key areas of focus and some of the main sources of carbon emissions within the NHS as a starting point.

Amy Kot, Digital Officer at Colton Mill Medical Practice, explained that their general practice team brainstormed and agreed upon a number of simple changes to their usual routine, which would help them on their way to become a greener and better primary care organisation.

These simple changes included:

  • Replacing plastic cups with re-useable glass cups at each of the office water fountains. Switching to re-useable glass cups is already saving the practice on average around £80 per month.
  • Collecting used batteries and ink cartridges, which they then send on to a recycling company in aid of a charity of their choice. Patients can’t currently recycle at the practice; however, the practice is looking into business recycling bins for the waiting area.
  • Turning off electronics (instead of leaving on or on standby) and lighting after use.
  • Introducing the “think before we print” initiative.
  • Ensuring recycling bins are available in the practice.

The general practice team were also keen to involve their patients to think of new ways of making greener decisions. The practice, along with their partner surgery, the Grange Medical Centre in Seacroft, jointly serves a population of around 13,000 patients and both practices combined have a total of 41 staff members. Keen to receive a wide range of suggestions, the practice welcomes ideas from patients via their social media platforms and plans to re-introduce their Patient Reference Group meetings, which were put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The practice’s next aim is to implement a larger change to the way the practice operates, focusing on patient communications.

Amy explained: “Every day, we send hundreds of letters to our patients, meaning we use a lot of paper. Our idea is to reduce the amount of paper by sending electronic messages to patients via text message, giving them the option to opt in or out of receiving their letters electronically”.

By doing this, the practice will aim to send patient letters as a link to their mobile phone or email address, instead of using ink or paper. Digital transformation is one key area highlighted within the NHS Green Plan, which suggests that NHS organisations ‘harness existing digital technology and systems to streamline […] service delivery’.

The practice has already received support for this initiative from patients, with one patient commenting that she preferred to receive her GP communications electronically, as it was useful to have all of her GP related documents on her phone.

Amy commented: “I think it’s a great concept to focus on in general practice. Recently we have noticed a change in how we communicate with our patients – many prefer a text message or email, so it makes sense to introduce this to all our patients and give them that option”.

Not only is this way of communicating with patients beneficial to the environment, it also reduces costs in general practice and the time frame in which patients receive a communication from the practice. With text message or email, communication becomes  almost instant and reduces the practices monthly spend on paper, envelopes, printer ink and postage stamps. Amy added: “By introducing the #GoingGreen campaign, it gets everyone into a routine of making environmentally friendly decisions, which they will hopefully also introduce at home. We are all enthusiastic at the practice to make some changes and to do our part for the environment!”

Colton Hill Medical Practice hopes to continue implementing green initiatives within their surgery and have already drawn up some ideas for the future, including a review around overprescribing medicines to patients, switching to a 100% greener energy supplier and offering lower carbon alternative medicines to patients.

How can your GP practice support the #GoingGreen campaign?

An easy place to start when implementing green strategies within your surgery would be to replicate the changes made by Colton Mill Medical Practice, or to brainstorm with staff and patients for any opportunities for improvement. Other sources of information or places to start are provided below: