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Environmental sustainability

Climate change is a critical challenge for healthcare systems, impacting patients, staff, suppliers and wider society. The NHS is responsible for 4% of England’s total carbon footprint. Air and water pollution, increasing allergens and rising temperatures all have a detrimental impact on health and wellbeing, disproportionately affecting people with long-term conditions such as respiratory issues.

In response to this challenge the NHS committed in 2020 to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040. The journey to a lower carbon economy relies on harnessing sustainable innovation, coupled with changes in services and behaviour.

Occupying a unique role linking healthcare systems, research and industry, Academic Health Science Networks are well placed to support the drive for environmental sustainability.

AHSNs are working together across the country in a number of key areas including sharing best practice through webinars supporting a net zero NHS. You can catch up with recordings here. Topics covered include reducing the environmental impact of asthma inhalers and cutting nitrous oxide waste.

The three South East AHSNs (Kent Surrey Sussex, Oxford and Wessex) are working together on a number of green initiatives. These include producing a practical guide to help healthcare professionals working in the respiratory field to benefit patients and reduce the environmental impact of asthma treatments. We are also developing a support pack for innovators.

We ensure environmental sustainability is factored into all innovations before we support spread and adoption. Recent examples include:

Personalised approach improves patient experience before surgery and reduces hospital journeys

A digital tool is enabling more interaction by telephone rather than face-to-face prior to routine hip and knee operations – read more

Test to rule out pre-eclampsia in pregnancy has environmental benefits

Routine use of a blood test to rule out pre-eclampsia which is keeping thousands of pregnant women safe and out of hospital, as well as reducing NHS costs, has carbon reduction benefits too – read more

Environmentally-friendly product addresses urinary incontinence

The Oxford AHSN is working with Binding Sciences and Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust to develop an environmentally-friendly alternative to continence pads – read more

Amelia James

Further information 

Amelia James – Environmental Sustainability Lead for the Oxford and Kent Surrey Sussex AHSNs [email protected]