Sustainable Healthcare

Sustainable healthcare means ensuring sustainable ways of improving health and treating patients. A Green NHS can:

  • Reduce the carbon footprint and environmental impact of providing care
  • Reduce air pollution and contributing to a cleaner environment
  • Reduce the use of single use plastics where appropriate and feasible
  • Ensure that prevention and wellbeing are the focus of all healthcare activities
  • Develop sustainable clinical practices in all specialities and services.

Air quality is an example of an area where action is required. Poor air quality is materially shortening our lives, with the equivalent of 40,000 excess deaths per year in the UK (ref). It is also linked to asthma, increased and earlier dementia, increased heart attacks and developmental problems for babies. As an organisation with over 1.3 million staff, huge estates and around nine billion miles of healthcare associated road travel annually, we have a clear opportunity to improve the impact of our healthcare delivery on the air we breathe. Find out more about air quality here

The NHS needs to consider all healthcare practices and reduce carbon where it is safe to do so. This includes reducing unnecessary face to face outpatient appointments and reducing the carbon emissions from metered dose inhalers and high-carbon anaesthetic gases [link to inhalers and anaesthetics]

A large part of healthcare’s environmental impact comes from medicines and medical devices including their manufacture, distribution, packaging, use and disposal. Some of the significant groups working to reduce the impacts of pharmaceuticals and medical devices are listed below:

The Sustainable Healthcare Coalition (formerly CSPM) convenes expertise on sustainable medicine and medical devices has produced guidance for consistently appraising the environmental impacts of health care products and of health care pathways 
Health Care Without Harm, aims to amplify the voices of healthcare professionals about key issues affecting the environment. HCWH runs the Safer Pharma campaign to tackle pharmaceutical pollution in the environment, from all stages of pharmaceuticals’ lifecycle.

You can find out more about what sustainable health and care means here.