Work by the Integrated Care System for Devon to promote the environmental benefits of virtual appointments is being showcased at COP26; the world’s largest climate action event, in a photography exhibition, “Care for the future: delivering the world’s first net zero health service.”
The photography exhibition, captured by portrait photographer Justin Lambert features NHS staff – from pharmacists to surgeons, mental health professionals to health visitors – who have pioneered greener healthcare initiatives for the benefit of their patients and the communities they serve.
The exhibition for COP26 pictures Jo; an Advanced Occupational Therapist in Rheumatology based at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust. She splits her time working in hospital and from home on her barge, delivering remote occupational therapy sessions to patients who might experience discomfort when travelling due to limited mobility.
Jo said: “It’s a much more environmentally friendly way of working and it’s popular with my patients too – reducing the stress and discomfort of travelling to hospital.”
Across the Integrated Care System for Devon, hospital appointments held virtually by video or phone have saved patients an estimated 13.5 million miles of travelling over the course of a year, equivalent to circumnavigating the globe 550 times.
Jane Milligan, Chief Executive of the Integrated Care System for Devon said: “I am delighted that our work in Devon to promote a greener NHS has been recognised at COP26.
“Air pollution is the single greatest environmental threat to health in the UK, accounting for 1 in 20 deaths. By cutting travel and reducing harmful carbon emissions we can also reduce the number of cases of cancer, heart disease and asthma among our patients.
“By tackling climate change we can also tackle the growing health impacts associated with climate change. Last year heatwaves claimed the lives of 2500 people in the UK.”
Around 3.5% of all road travel in England relates to NHS patients, visitors, staff and suppliers. As a result of holding 350,000 remote appointments, hospitals across the Integrated Care System for Devon have saved 2,503 tonnes of carbon dioxide – the same as taking 1,200 cars off the road for a year.
In October 2020, the NHS became the world’s first health system to commit to reaching carbon net zero, in response to the profound and growing threat to health posed by climate change.
Dr Nick Watts, NHS Chief Sustainability Officer, said: “One year on from becoming the first health service in the world to commit to being net zero, the NHS is still on track to reduce its admissions – saving enough carbon to fuel 1.7m flights from London to New York – at the same time as dealing with its most immediate threat in Covid-19.
“This exhibition celebrates the incredible work of NHS staff who continue to lead the world in the fight against climate change, creating a healthier planet for our patients.”
As one of the world’s largest employers, contributing almost 5% of UK carbon emissions, the NHS can play a vital role in supporting the UK Government’s climate change targets.
Visitors to the NHS Care for the future: delivering the world’s first net zero health service photography exhibition at COP26, including political leaders and their delegations from around the world, will discover how greener healthcare is beginning to transform every area of healthcare, from the first climate-friendly birth through to cutting the delivery time of vital medical supplies by boat, and reducing harmful gases within one of the greenest operating theatres in the country.
The exhibition is on display in the Blue Zone of the COP26 venue in Glasgow, for the duration of the conference (31 October – 12 November), before it moves on to Newcastle NHS Hospital Trust in December, and on to other NHS Trusts across the country over the course of 2022.
The NHS was invited by the hosts of COP26 to display this exhibition.
The full exhibition and stories can be accessed digitally on the Greener NHS website.