Health Service Focus

27.01.20

Greener NHS campaign launched to fight ‘health emergency’

The NHS has launched a campaign (Jan 25) to increase action taken on the climate ‘health emergency’ in 2020, aiming to prevent illness, relieve pressure on A&Es and save tens of thousands of lives in the UK.

It comes after the launch of the Climate Assembly UK this week, which explored solutions to reaching the country’s target of net zero carbon emissions.

The health and care system is responsible for around 4-5% of the country’s carbon footprint.

Climate change and air pollution are often caused by the same factors, so new campaign, ‘For a greener NHS’ will look to tackle both.

Air pollution can have a damaging effect on health and is linked to serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, contributing to around 36,000 deaths annually.

This is backed up by research from a recent Kings College London study, demonstrating that an additional 673 additional out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and hospital admissions for stroke and asthma occur on days with high pollutions across nine English cities.

NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said:

“With almost 700 people dying potentially avoidable deaths due to air pollution every week we are facing a health emergency as well as a climate emergency.

“Patients and the public rightly want the NHS to deliver for them today, and to help safeguard the future health of our children and grandchildren.

“While the NHS is already a world leader in sustainability, as the biggest employer in this country comprising nearly a tenth of the UK economy, we’re both part of the problem and part of the solution.

“Indeed, if health services across the world were their own country, they’d be the fifth-largest emitter on the planet.

“That’s why today we are mobilising our 1.3million staff to take action for a greener NHS, and it’s why we’ll be working with the world’s leading experts to help set a practical, evidence-based and ambitious date for the NHS to reach net zero.”

Sir Stevens has set out three steps to be taken by the NHS to tackle this problem. Firstly, the launch of an expert panel to help the NHS become the world’s first major health service to reach net zero.

Secondly, immediate action will be taken with a new NHS Standard Contact, calling on hospitals to reduce carbon from buildings, switching to less polluting anaesthetic gases, better asthma inhalers and supporting its workforce to undertake more active travel.

Finally, it will see the rollout of its own grassroots campaign ‘For a Greener NHS’ encouraging staff and hospitals to cut their impact on people’s health and the environment.

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