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Tackling climate change to improve our health system

Written by: Kathy Scott - 25th July 2023

The climate crisis is a health emergency and in response, the NHS is the world’s first health service to commit to delivering net zero carbon emissions. Net zero refers to balancing the amount of carbon gases we emit into the atmosphere with the amount removed, slowing down the rate at which the climate is changing. In this blog, Deputy Chief Executive, Kathy Scott, explains why investing in the green agenda can make a difference to population health.

Kathy Scott against a blue wall

We are proud to lead the AHSN Network’s activity supporting the NHS to meet its net zero targets through identifying and supporting innovations that make a difference to the NHS. We are also supporting our local systems working with the Integrated Care Board (ICB) and trust net zero leads to understand how innovative ways of working, technology and products can support their ambitions.

Rewarding good practice

The SENTINEL PLUS project continues to make a difference to those suffering with asthma whilst also reducing the carbon footprint associated with reliever inhaler (often know as blue inhalers) use. The project was named the Environmental Sustainability Project of the Year at this year’s HSJ Partnership Awards. There are now 305 Primary Care Networks signed up to SENTINEL PLUS throughout England helping to further reduce the environmental impact of blue inhalers. In our region prescriptions of blue inhalers have been reduced by 44,275 saving over 1,240 metric tonnes of eCo2 emissions.

Working in partnership with Humber and North Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership, we ran the Sheep Shed Green Award programme. The awards promote sustainable practice within the Humber and North Yorkshire region and help progress carbon reduction projects which have been identified by staff into action. This programme is a great opportunity to showcase innovative practice across the ICB footprint. Each of the winners has demonstrated how simple changes will continue to support the delivery of high-quality patient centred care whilst protecting the environment and NHS resources for future generations.

The award offered to each applicant is tailored to the innovative project with up to £50,000 available to support the ideas. This year’s winners include initiatives that power vehicles with used cooking oil, the recycling of medicinal waste products and a food waste recycling system.

Sharing sustainability good practice

We continue to run our Sustainability Support Programme alongside our partners Hill Dickinson to help small businesses with an interest in supplying the NHS increase their understanding of sustainability requirements within the healthcare sector. Together we have now run three events in the series, focusing on sustainable procurement, healthcare supply chains and being confident in your green claims.

Following the NHS’ ambitious commitment to become net zero by 2040, NHS England has funded several innovation programmes, all of which are required to consider environmental sustainability as part of their selection criteria. We were commissioned by NHS England to explore innovators’ experiences of applying for innovation programmes with a focus on net zero.

Based on this work, we are pleased to say we have now published guidance for innovators on sustainability in healthcare. In collaboration with the Accelerated Access Collaborative, this guidance has been written for innovators to help them navigate sustainability within the NHS. The guidance covers what to consider when articulating your sustainable impact, understanding the impact of your product and resources to help you on your journey It also includes resources to help innovators on their sustainability journey.

Find out more about our work in our Impact Report and about the work we lead on net zero for the AHSN Network.