NHS and wider health sector hits first target in combating climate change

The NHS and wider health and care sector is over the first hurdle in the race to reach carbon reduction targets and help limit the effects of climate change.

A report from the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) for NHS England and Public Health England showed the NHS has reduced its carbon emissions by 11% between 2007 and 2015 – exceeding the 10% target set in 2009. The wider sector, which also includes public health and social care, has seen a 13% reduction over the same period.

This is good progress especially when considering health and care activity has increased by 18% over the same period. However more work will be needed to reach the Climate Change Act target of 80% by 2050.

The Sustainable Development in Health and Care Report details the multiple factors have contributed to the reduction. Carbon emissions in relation to procurement have reduced by 16% – this is mainly in relation to pharmaceuticals. Travel emissions have reduced by 5% – which also offers the ‘co-benefit’ for health in reducing air pollution, and energy emissions have reduced by 4% which also saved £25m over the year.

The report also identifies additional opportunities to cut carbon further. These include reducing waste by working better with supply chains, finding alternatives for harmful gases used in some medical devices and procedures and helping people to make lifestyle changes that prevent ill health in the first place. Many of these opportunities will improve the health of people and save money, as well as reduce carbon emissions.

The good work being done is strongly supported by the public who recognised the importance of the agenda shown by recent public survey results commissioned by the SDU. The results show 92% of people think is important for the health and care system to work in a more sustainable way and 25% believe it should be a top priority – both increases since the survey was last conducted in 2013.

For more information about how the NHS and wider sector is performing on sustainable development read the report – www.sduhealth.org.uk/SD2016