We recognise that we have an obligation to work in a way that has a positive effect on the communities we serve. This means delivering high quality healthcare while ensuring we spend public money well, are smart and efficient in the use of natural resources while helping to build healthy and resilient communities.
Our 2020-25 Green Plan, which replaces our 2015-20 Environmental Sustainability Strategy, has been developed to build upon previous work undertaken by the Trust to reduce the environmental impact of its activities while supporting the NHS Long term Plan focus on sustainable healthcare delivery.
The Plan reflects the climate health emergency we face which has resulted in the legally enforceable target within the UK Climate Change Act to transition to ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050, or earlier if possible. It also reflects the NHS Long Term Plan goals and the NHS England and NHS Improvement ‘For a Greener NHS’ initiative.
We have for many years adopted a proactive approach to environmental management within the Trust and the NHS. However, we understand that there is more we can do to improve the environmental, social and financial impact of the Trust, our communities and the wider NHS.
Making positive change
We have been successful in reducing emissions that contribute to climate change in the past. A range of sustainable measures have been implemented but we have now updated ambitious targets to reduce emissions further, supporting the transition to ‘net zero’ emissions.
To support this we will focus on energy and water use within our buildings, the prevention and management of waste, the procurement of goods and services, business, patient, visitor and staff commuting travel and transport as well as models of care. We will further develop our approach to embedding sustainable practices and where possible act as an exemplar to our community, other NHS Trusts, and partners.
Adapting to and planning for climate change
While the Trust is focused on the importance of reducing it's environmental impact, it also recognises that climate change is happening, at an accelerating rate, and the Trust needs to be prepared for anticipated effects and plan accordingly. The Trust has recently updated its Climate Change Adaptation Plan and you can read it here.
The Green Plan is supported by a Sustainable Development Action Plan which sets out SMART actions which will be monitored by the Trust’s Sustainable Development Forum, which includes representatives from the Executive, Estates, Facilities Management, HR, Procurement, Medical, Technology, Communications, our charity Brighterway and others. Progress against this is reported internally and is also included within the Sustainability section of the Trust’s Annual Plan.
Emissions that contribute to climate change are continuing to rise. If the worst effects of climate change as well as poor air quality are to be avoided we need to reduce this significantly and quickly. This is why the UK Climate Change Act includes a target to reduce emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050.
Achieving net zero means that only when we have reduced emissions as much as is possible any remaining emissions are balanced with equivalent emissions that are either ‘offset’ or ‘sequestered’ (for example verified schemes that absorb such emissions from the atmosphere – planting trees is often used as an example).
The pandemic has highlighted that community health is dependent on a healthy planet and sustainable economic development is dependent on the health of communities. Immediate changes to the Trust’s working practices, such as home working and greater use of digital consultations, resulted in a significant reduction in business travel emissions (26% reduction over a 3-month period in 2020 compared to 2019). We will be seeking to build on this where this is practical and clinically appropriate.
One area of focus within the NHS is the reduction in the use of single-use plastics, where possible. While this remains important, Covid-19 has inevitably resulted in enhanced use of single-use PPE; our focus will always balance sustainability objectives with priority safety considerations.
Simple actions include using energy, water, diesel and petrol cars only when necessary, making sure you recycle all waste that can be, using sustainable forms of transport such as cycling, walking, public transport or low or zero emission vehicles – this can help with physical and mental health as well!
There are plenty of other ways to be sustainable such as preventing waste, avoiding unnecessary single use plastics, using renewable energy, supporting local efforts including the enhancing of green spaces – and many others!