The process

The process

ROUTE MAP for Sustainable Health – How it was developed?

Why was it necessary? – Following the launch of the NHS Carbon Reduction Strategy in January 2009, it has become clear that addressing this issue and seizing the opportunities means embedding economic, environmental and social sustainability deeply within the core functioning of a health service.

This leads to two fundamental questions that need a collaborative and focussed effort to address:

  • What does a truly sustainable health service look like?
  • What components need to be put in place to get there?

To answer these questions the SDU ran two half day workshops with leading thinkers in health, the NHS and the world of sustainable development in order to develop a very practical route map to a sustainable health system.

Where do you start? – We started with a thorough literature review. The list of documents reviewed can be found in the downloadable resources section below. From this list several trends were identified that formed the basis of Workshop 1.

Workshop 1

The first workshop explored the concept of system resilience and responsiveness to challenges and was firmly rooted in responding to foreseeable trends. The initial task consisted of examining the characteristics of a sustainable health care system, and some of the steps on the way, by categorising the requirements a system would need to deal with in relation to:

  • Population – A planet populated by 9 billion ageing people. 
  • Carbon – The transition to a low carbon economy and less reliance on fossil fuels. 
  • Heat – A significantly hotter and more erratic climate. 
  • Money - A different approach to funding the health system. 
  • Networks – Significant changes in the role of networks, communication and technology in healthcare delivery. 

A summary of workshop 1 with a list of contributor’s comments can be found in the downloadable resources section below. 

Preparing for Workshop 2 – The outputs from workshop 1 were categorised and 6 building blocks or themes that will take us to a more sustainable future were identified. A simplified version of the building blocks are sketched out in the ‘Developing the 6 strands’ spreadsheet found in the Downloadable Resources section. In addition, a comprehensive PESTLE analysis in relation to the external factors that might influence this route map was developed between the workshops (see downloadable resources section). 

Workshop 2

During the second workshop the group looked at the 6 strands identified and considered what they might feel like in 2050. Through a back casting exercise the participants identified the necessary condition for a sustainable health system in 2050 for each of the strands and worked backwards to capture key milestones from 2010 to 2050. The thoughts and insights were captured on a huge wall chart using post-it notes – arrows and stickers were used to link concepts and create a rich picture of a sustainable health system.

Question: How do you capture the richness of all this information, from a process that has involved over 80 leading thinkers in healthcare, sustainability, business, local government, the economy, education, future thinking and world affairs from over 70 organisations in a simple and accessible 12 page document?
Answer: With dedication, passion and hard work. The SDU in collaboration with all of the organisations and people involved have worked tirelessly to breathe life into this framework which is not just a landmark publication for the English health system but for health systems globally.

However, the crystallisation of all this work is only the very first step in this journey. The route map for sustainable health provides direction but now everyone aligned to improving the health system needs to collaborate to make it a reality.

To get involved visit the main route map page or click on one of the work strands identified in the menu bar on the left.