The NHS has the biggest carbon footprint of the whole UK public sector, emitting over 18 million tonnes of CO2 per year. In an effort to help reduce costs, save lives and help reduce the carbon emissions of the organisation, a handbook providing guidance to key decision-makers in the NHS has been issued along with a letter from the President of UK Faculty of Public Health, Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, the Director of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, David Pencheon, the Chief Executive of the NHS, David Nicholson, and the Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, Steve Barnett.
The handbook, ‘Sustaining a Healthy Future – Taking action on climate change (with a special focus on the NHS)’ outlines a number of motives for the health authority to put measures in place to reduce the huge levels of greenhouse gases emitted every year. As well as making a significant contribution towards the government’s targets for reduced levels of carbon emissions by 2020, the organisation is also facing up to their responsibility to act to prevent serious effects of climate change caused by global warming that would inevitably affect the world’s poorest nations with most impact.
Professor Alan Maryon-Davis said,
“The NHS is ideally placed to promote health and wellbeing by leading the battle against climate change. Cutting carbon saves money for healthcare – and also helps save the planet’s poorest families from a bleak future of droughts, flooding, food insecurity, migration and conflict.
“I urge all NHS managers to adopt ‘Sustaining a Healthy Future’ as a basic guide to carbon reduction – and to share it with their teams and colleagues to inspire everyday action.”
Measures taken will include increased energy efficiency of NHS buildings, a 15% reduction in energy consumption by 2010 compared to energy usage in 2000, the introduction of Board Travel Plans by 2010 in response to the approx 10.5 billion miles travelled in conjunction with the NHS every year, and putting in place waste reduction policies to combat the large amount of food waste sent to landfill each year. Employees are also being urged to apply more sustainable practices in their personal lives and to encourage colleagues to do so.
In addition to reducing the carbon footprint of the NHS, the handbook promotes the idea that a better, healthier environment with less pollution and safer places for walking and enjoying the outdoors will lead to a healthier nation, therefore helping reduce current demands on the National Health Service. It also highlights the important role that food plays, both in terms of maintaining a healthy body, but also the importance of ensuring that the food we eat comes from sustainable and responsibly farmed sources to ensure future generations have a secure food supply.
The Director of the NHS’ Sustainable Development Unit, David Pencheon said,
“The NHS needs to put in place the actions, research and development necessary to ensure that a reduction in carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 is an achievable goal.”