Government backing needed to further NHS carbon reduction efforts

Independent Impact Report makes calls for additional support to ensure sustainability in the NHS

Efforts by NHS trusts to save money and cut their carbon footprint will only bring about savings if the Government throws its weight – and funding – behind sustainability, according to a new report.

The NHS could free up significant funds for frontline services if the Government lends its support to trusts developing low-carbon measures, says the independent NHS Sustainability Campaign in its third annual Impact Report.

The document provides an overview of sustainability progress in the UK’s healthcare system.

This report demonstrates the important role estates and facilities teams play in ensuring we have an NHS fit for the future

And, in the latest publication, the campaign insists that Government backing and funding could ‘save the NHS millions in years to come’.

Campaigner manager, Scott Buckler, said: “This report demonstrates the important role estates and facilities teams play in ensuring we have an NHS fit for the future.

“As we approach the NHS’s 70th birthday, we must ensure we have a plan for the next 70 years and beyond.”

The report highlights a range of sustainability leaders within the NHS community.

Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, for example, has reduced its carbon footprint per patient contact by 12.1% since 2014.

This was achieved through a series of energy-efficiency measures such as boiler flue gas economisers, BMS optimisation, steam tap replacement, and PC monitor power down.

The North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust expects to save around £1.2m a year through its carbon management plan; while Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust reduced its water consumption by 15% – which equates to more than 100 million litres of water – in the first year of its AquaFund grant scheme.

Ministers are now being urged to meet with leading trusts to establish how best practice can be shared nationally.

We are calling on the Government to listen and learn from the examples in this report and to support estates teams as they continue to deliver financial savings across the NHS

“We are calling on the Government to listen and learn from the examples in this report and to support estates teams as they continue to deliver financial savings across the NHS," Buckler said.

The health sector has already taken great strides to embed sustainability into its business model. Research suggests that an online tool could save the NHS more than £400m while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions by one million tonnes a year by 2020 and providing health benefits to patients.

And hospitals up and down the country have been implementing low-carbon measures to reduce emissions and generate savings.

Scarborough Hospital's new low-carbon energy centre, which includes a combined heat and power (CHP) unit, is set to deliver savings of more than £9m and almost 32,000 tonnes of carbon reduction.

And Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust benefited from a finance procurement system that partnered the trust with companies including Vital Energi that could replace aging heat and power infrastructure with a combined heat and power system that would generate massive economic savings.

The impact report states that while fewer energy efficiency projects are being reported, and admits that ‘the low-hanging fruit has been achieved for many’, there are still options for further reducing the impact of services.

“This year there is a marked emphasis on projects which contribute to better patient care. For example, food provision,” it says.

“The outcomes from these are seldom measurable in terms of finance or carbon footprint, but do have a major contribution to sustainable health.

“Additionally, there were many applications involving sustainable travel and transport which do produce substantial savings for the organisation in terms of carbon and finance. These often enable large savings for commuting staff and patients, together with a decrease in engine emissions, which contribute to the general health and wellbeing of the community but do not produce direct savings to the NHS trust.”

There were many applications involving sustainable travel and transport which do produce substantial savings for the organisation in terms of carbon and finance

Buckler adds that there is ‘a very-encouraging increase in interest’ in sustainability from clinical commissioning groups.

He said: “Although achievements may appear small compared to those in large NHS trust; they are significant at the scale of CCGs activities and there is an increase in applications coming from clinical areas rather than just EFM.”

To access the full report, click here.

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