New guide for health organisations encourages leadership on sustainable development

The Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) and NHS Improvement have produced a joint guide for NHS organisations on reducing waste while protecting the public’s health, now and for the future.     

The guide and resources will help Boards lead their organisations to deliver sustainable healthcare, maximising efficiency in resources and delivering positive health benefits for their local communities. 

Health and care organisations are often the largest local employer, largest estate, significant contributors to road traffic and spend a great deal in local economies. 

As such they have the capacity, through the way that services are designed and delivered, to leverage health benefits for local communities - such as less air pollution or more local employment, while immediately reducing direct costs- such as energy efficiency or designing out waste.  

Organisations have a duty to protect the health of future generations including by reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change. The health and care system reduced emissions by 18.5% up to 2017. While this is admirable progress it is still behind the trajectory needed to achieve the Climate Change Act 2020 target of 34%, highlighting the need for all organisations to accelerate efforts going forward.

The resources support organisations to produce their Sustainable Development Management Plan (SDMP) to address areas such as: 

  • Air pollution 
  • Energy, waste and water efficiency
  • Greenspace
  • Carbon emissions
  • Adaptation
  • Staff engagement in social and environmental activity 

The new guide will help organisations develop an approach to delivering financial savings and benefits alongside health and wellbeing benefits for staff, patients and the public. The guide is aligned with the national and global approach to addressing shared societal challenges, such as climate change and sustainable development.    

SDMPs form a key part of sustainable healthcare delivery to ensure services reduce waste, while protecting the public’s health, now and for the future.

Other key reasons why SDMPs are important for organisations:

  • The NHS standard contract mandates all providers to have an SDMP in place. 
  • In designing and procuring services Commissioners must consider how to leverage additional Social Value. An SDMP can help evidence Social Value.
  • NHS Improvement and NHS England expect that all NHS providers to have a Board approved SDMP. These plans are indicative of a well led organisation. 
  • Public Health England view these plans as evidence of an organisation’s commitment to local public health outcomes. As such the number of local organisations with SDMPs is publically reported an indicator in the Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF). 

Download the guide and supporting documents here.