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Supporting the NHS' net zero ambitions with innovation

Written by: Victoria Vaines - 8th November 2021

Climate change is a massive problem. As world leaders joined together at the COP26 Summit last week to try and address climate change, we are shining a spotlight on some of the work we are doing to support our stakeholders with their sustainability journeys.

In this blog, Programme Manager Victoria Vaines, discusses some of the projects she’s been involved in to help reduce our own carbon footprint but also support the NHS’ ambition to reach net zero by 2040.

The world has started to listen to the ever-growing urgency to slow down climate change and improve environmental sustainability. We hear a lot from major corporations on how they are adopting greener initiatives and making their practices more sustainable, for example using less plastics, using carbon offsetting or promoting campaigns to change consumer behaviour.

Impacts of Climate Change

Impacts of Climate Change. Image from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One thing that the public are less aware of is how the climate emergency has an impact on their health, from how polluted cities exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma or how extreme weather events such as floods lead to a rising demand for healthcare due to injury or infection.

The NHS was the first healthcare system in the world to declare a climate emergency and in October 2020 released a report outlining their plans to get the NHS to Net Zero by 2040. One year on from the report, the NHS has made great progress in starting to reduce its carbon impact; It’s already reduced the use of desflurane (a gas with a greenhouse effect significantly more potent than CO2 used in anaesthesia) and is now using more environmentally friendly gasses instead. Because this is such an important subject, the AHSN Network set up a community of interest and developed a strategy to support our NHS Stakeholders to reach Net Zero.

One of the things we have done as a network is set up a series of events on Sharing Innovation and Learning to Deliver a Net Zero NHS, the first two have been around getting started on the net zero journey and reducing the impact of anaesthetic gases with a third around asthma inhalers. If you’d like any information about these events, please contact

Here at the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, we are developing our own regional strategy to support our local organisations with their sustainability priorities, look internally at how we improve our own practices to be more sustainable, and explore how we can link all of this in to the AHSN Network strategy. We have also delivered a Pilot Programme, Propel@YH Net Zero, during this summer as one of our sustainability projects.

Propel@YH Net Zero was commissioned by the climate change team at West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership to support a small cohort of innovators bring their sustainable innovations to the region. The programme provided the innovators with a structured course of support and advice through series of masterclasses and mentoring to understand more about their green innovations and the impact these are having. This will enable us to facilitate conversations with the  healthcare community. The mentoring process has now finished, but we are still keen to support our three Net Zero Innovators through promotion and facilitation of discussions.

Over the next couple of weeks, in a series of blogs, you’ll hear from our three innovators: Patients Know Best, Automedi and Dignio. This will give you the opportunity to find out more about the SME’s innovations and how the Propel@YH Net Zero programme has supported their ‘green’ offer to the NHS. The SMEs are helping us to understand how we have had an impact on them so we can  assess the benefits of the pilot programme, learn from their feedback and work to build on it for a potential programme next year.

We are also holding a virtual showcase event on the 30th November for people in Yorkshire and the Humber to talk to the three innovators and learn more about their innovations. If you would like to attend this session, please contact for more details.

If you would like to to know more about what we can do to maintain the momentum on net zero, please look at my colleague Pete Waddingham’s blog on the AHSN Network website here.