Key sustainability actions in NHS Long Term Plan

Key sustainability actions in NHS Long Term Plan


The NHS has published a Long Term Plan for the first time, detailing its work over the next 10 years. The Long Term Plan has been developed in response to DHSC's commitment to additional annual funding, and includes significant reference to sustainability.

By 2020, the NHS aims to reduce its carbon footprint by a third from 2007 levels.  Actions will include improving energy efficiency through widespread implementation of LED lighting and smart energy management, and there are also aims to modernise and standardise the ambulance fleet to help reduce emissions and improve air quality.

Air pollution from all clinical service delivery can add to the burden of ill health; and this will be addressed in the way that services are designed and delivered. Decisions by patients and clinicians can help to significantly reduce carbon emissions; particularly the use of inhalers and anaesthetics, which contribute disproportionately large amounts to the NHS carbon footprint.

Specifically, the NHS has restated its commitment to the carbon targets in the UK government Climate Change Act (2008), reducing carbon emissions (on a 1990 baseline), by:

• 34% by 2020

• 51% by 2025

The NHS has also stated a commitment to improving air quality, by: 

 • Cutting air pollutant emissions from business mileage and fleet by 20% by 2023/24

• Ensuring that at least 90% of the NHS fleet uses low-emissions engines (including 25% ultra-low emissions) by 2028

• Phasing out primary heating from coal and oil fuel in NHS sites

The plan also outlines the idea of the NHS as an 'anchor institution'; working with others to promote an understanding of its contribution to the local economy, society and environment.

The Sustainable Development Unit will continue to support the NHS in working towards its sustainability goals, and will develop more detailed implementation plans over the next six months in line with the SDU Business Plan.

After several worrying recent reports (including the latest IPCC report, the Lancet Countdown, and the WHO COP24 report), these are welcome and necessary commitments. Find out more about how this links to our work here and read the long-term plan here.