Today, we have launched a new call for innovations to both reduce carbon emissions and drive improvements in care for patients, in partnership with SBRI Healthcare.
Air pollution in London led to more than 1,700 hospital admissions for asthma and serious lung conditions between 2017-2019. More than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes. The World Health Organisation has declared the climate crisis a health crisis.
In the meantime, NHS travel and transport accounts for 3.5% of all UK road traffic and the NHS is responsible for an estimated 4-5% of England’s total carbon footprint. In 2016/17 NHS organisations generated nearly 590,000 tonnes of waste.
We can – and must – do better for our patients and our community. And vitally, we know innovation holds the key.
Funded by the Accelerated Access Collaborative as part of their SBRI programme, and in partnership with the Greener NHS Programme and the AHSN Network, the competition seeks innovative solutions that will directly impact reductions in the carbon footprint of the NHS.
Innovations are already helping the NHS lead the way to reduce emissions. We’re finding new ways to tackle travel emissions through, for example, the world’s first zero emission hydrogen electric ambulance – and last month, through the first ever delivery of chemotherapy to patients using drones. We’re driving down waste by trialling the use of a circular economy for surgical textiles and we’re using technology to better deliver and capture anaesthetic gases.
However, further steps need to be taken to resolve the complexity and size of the challenges that face us. The Delivering a Net Zero NHS: Clinical Innovation Competition, launched today, will provide £1 million in funding (up to £100,000 per innovation) to support innovative solutions to meet known NHS challenges and areas of opportunity.
For example, NHS inpatient surgical procedures are estimated to be responsible for approximately 470 thousand tonnes equivalent of CO2 emissions per year in the NHS, the same as powering 430,000 homes. In response to this, the competition will have a focus on searching for new innovations to address the decarbonisation of surgical pathways, as well as reducing waste in surgery and critical care.
We also know that empowering patients to take control of their care and wellbeing is a positive step for them and for the environment – therefore we are also calling for innovation to support improved and greener personalised care. We also recognise that nine in ten NHS staff support a net zero health service (YouGov 2022) – so we are seeking novel ideas for tools and ways to support our workforce to move to a greener NHS.
Applications are open to innovators in organisations of any size, based in the UK or EU from public, private and third sectors including companies, charities, universities and the NHS (see SBRI website for more details).
Innovations will need to demonstrate their impact on carbon emissions while considering the system complexity and the challenges faced by the NHS following the pandemic – as well as driving better care and experience for our patients. Successful projects will run for up to six months, to demonstrate whether innovations are technically feasible and have an impact on carbon reductions. Innovations that can prove their impact and potential will be eligible to seek further funding for prototype development and evaluation.
It’s a formidable challenge, and we know from experience that innovators surround us with great solutions that could benefit our patients while looking after the planet. With the right support, these innovative ideas could flourish and make step-changes towards a greener NHS.
If you have a clinical innovation that can help, please visit the SBRI Healthcare competition page.
Lindsey Hughes is Director of Research and Engagement in the Innovation, Research and Life Sciences (IRLS) Group and Accelerated Access Collaborative at NHS England.
During 27 years of NHS service, including 18 years in frontline service provision as an Orthoptist, Lindsey has held various clinical and professional leadership roles in service delivery, research and education. Lindsey joined NHS England in 2014 and led the Improving Rehabilitation Services Programme prior to joining the IRLS group in 2016 where she developed the research programme before taking up her current role.
Her portfolio includes Research, Horizon Scanning and Demand Signalling, Health Inequalities, Net Zero and Patient and Public Involvement.