New NHS sustainability report identifies £400m of potential savings

Report highlights interventions that can reduce carbon emissions by one million tonnes

The NHS could save more than £400m and cut carbon emissions by one million tonnes every year by 2020 through making changes that can also benefit people’s health, it was claimed this week.

A new report by the NHS Sustainable Development Unit for NHS England and Public Health England selected 35 areas and calculated their financial and environmental benefits.

The Securing Healthy Returns report outlines areas that offer potential cash savings and environmental benefits. These include providing mental health services to people being treated for physical health needs in hospitals; encouraging staff to travel to work by bike or foot; and increasing use of technology for communication – for instance between staff, and for patients with long-term conditions.

This report, and supporting resources, help organisations to identify opportunities that can save money now and have a positive environmental effect – which will save money and improve health, now and in the future

The analysis follows on from the Carter Review, which identified potential efficiencies in NHS hospitals worth up to £1.3billion and included interventions with environmental co-benefits such as improved energy efficiency.

This analysis looks at the financial and environmental benefits for initiatives in areas as broad as prevention and changing models of care. The report shows there are big savings, both financially and environmentally, from pro-actively addressing issues like air quality and fuel poverty – which would improve people’s health, reduce inequalities and save the NHS money.

To help organisations consider what difference they could make in cash and carbon, the report worked with energy efficiency verification specialists, EEVS; and sustainability software vendor, Trakeo, to produce an online tool to scale the 35 interventions according to organisations.

The Your Carbon Cost Benefit Curve tool enables users to enter specific details of their organisation such as staff numbers, floor space, and operations. Users then select the interventions they want to include and the system will calculate the potential financial savings and reduction in tonnes of carbon.

For instance, an average-sized hospital with 3,000 staff and performing 60,000 operations a year could save up to £2.2m and cut 3,000 tonnes of carbon a year – the same as taking 1,300 cars off the road for a year.

We don’t have to choose between saving money and protecting the environment – we can make decisions that will do both, as well as improve people’s health

The 35 areas were selected based on real-life examples taking place at health and care organisations across England. These have been analysed to show the levels of savings they can offer by implementing at a national and local level.

David Pencheon, director of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, said: “We know that the NHS and health sector is facing its greatest financial challenge, and we need to seize every opportunity to realise savings and efficiencies.

“But we also know that seeking financial savings without considering the long-term social and environmental implications can be dangerously short-sighted in terms of health protection and improvement.

“This report, and supporting resources, help organisations to identify opportunities that can save money now and have a positive environmental effect – which will save money and improve health, now and in the future.

“We don’t have to choose between saving money and protecting the environment – we can make decisions that will do both, as well as improve people’s health.”

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