Developing Sustainable Healthcare in the UK

Developing Sustainable Healthcare in the UK

“Sustainability and public health are very closely connected – we simply cannot work towards having a healthy population with an unhealthy planet. We have created a ‘Green Strategic Plan’ (our sustainability strategy) that goes beyond energy and explores how we can deliver care in an environmentally friendly way, including how we travel, prescribing of medicines, engaging suppliers to take action, digital and virtual ways of working.”

- Sustainability Lead, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust

A recent article in the Royal College of Surgeons Bulletin begins by reminding fellow surgeons that a single operation can produce “up to 814kg of CO2, the same as driving up to 2,273 miles in an average petrol car.” This is indicative of the urgency felt by HCPs about developing sustainable healthcare in the UK. It is this energy that is driving research, the green healthcare jobs, and powerful local initiatives by Foundation Trusts.

The NHS commitment to achieve Net Zero by 2045, with an 80% reduction of locally controlled emissions by 2028-32, is creating new sustainability roles within the organisation. Whilst responsibility for green policies has - until recently - sat with estates departments, there are now moves to create sustainability roles and dedicated time to allow health professionals to decarbonise their specialism and department.

In preparation for this blog, LDA Research spoke to a number of HCPs who have taken on sustainability roles within the NHS, allowing them to be a proactive part of the changes to healthcare that are taking place.

I started in November 2017 when I became aware that senior management were not aware of the threats of climate change and there was no plan to address our own organisation’s environmental footprint. There was a disconnect between human and planetary health and our ability to provide healthcare in a future threatened by climate change.

[Now]Hospitals are largely guided by the Net Zero agenda which is a fantastic place to start. It will impact on every part of our operations from procurement to estates to clinical care.

- Consultant in Critical Care

Developing Sustainable Healthcare Technology

The new, sharper focus on sustainable healthcare is reflected in the kind of work we’re doing at LDA Research. Two of our recent projects involving sustainable medical market research are:

1. Anaesthesia Gases

When anaesthetic gas is used in hospitals its dispersal into the atmosphere creates significant pollution. A report published by Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) in 2019 found that the NHS produces 5.4% of the UK’s total carbon emissions.

Technology for addressing this problem is being developed to recycle, capture, or administer anaesthesia intravenously using TIVA pumps. We talked to anaesthetists, biomedical staff and sustainability directors about the alternatives available.

2. Sterilisable ECG Leads

Ever since the 1980s the NHS has operated a single-use policy for medical devices. The Net Zero agenda is disrupting orthodoxy around this infection-control policy, which is now considered a source of plastic pollution and carbon emissions.

Many hospitals are now considering the use of sterilisable ECG leads in place of the disposable sets they are currently using. LDA Research talked to HCPs about their views on this move, the ways in which they would integrate it into their hospitals, and the hospital workload.

Global Sustainable Healthcare

The UK is fairly advanced in its response to climate change. The Net Zero agenda is causing healthcare provision to examine practices, systems, and professional roles in order to develop a holistic approach to sustainability.

At the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP 26), 45 countries committed to the development of low carbon and sustainable health systems. Just 14 have so far set a target date to reach Net Zero carbon emissions prior to 2050.

“Sustainability is now becoming central to hospital operations; we are becoming aware of the impacts from delivering our care services and the health benefits of preventing climate change or acting more environmentally. Our visitors and staff also want to see that we are operating in a sustainable way as climate anxiety becomes more recognised.”

- Environmental & Sustainability Officer

Blog - Global Sustainable Healthcare

About LDA Research

LDA Research is a medical market research provider. Set up in 2011 by Lucy Doorbar, we specialise in providing global intelligence in the pharmaceutical industry and medical device sector. We have dedicated healthcare panels in the UK and US, as well as a network of international associates. The LDA team can be your eyes and ears wherever you need to be. From local culture to regulation and reimbursement, we can be relied upon to find the appropriate specialists for your requirements.

Would you like to speak to LDA Research about working with us? Call us today on 01525 861436.