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Health service 'has a responsibility to tackle its carbon footprint' says NHS Chief David Nicholson

26 November 2009

  • Sustainable Development Commission and NHS launch sustainable health website for health professionals
  • Interactive model demonstrates how emphasis on preventing illness and minimising waste and energy consumption can help improve efficiency

A new interactive website launched today (November 26) by the Sustainable Development Commission and the NHS shows how health professionals can help save money and make the NHS more sustainable.

The Good Corporate Citizenship assessment model shows how reducing waste and energy consumption in operations and procurement, and making decisions that help prevent illness, can help NHS trusts make significant efficiency savings and benefit patients, communities and the environment.

The Good Corporate Citizenship assessment model allows health professionals to rate the performance of their organisation according to sustainability criteria for procurement, buildings, facilities management, community engagement, workforce and travel. Originally launched in 2006, the website attracted signed-up users representing over 60% of health trusts in England. The newly updated site draws on the experiences of these users to give the latest requirements and thinking by which professionals can assess their organisations, and track their progress over time.

Speaking in a video message to mark the launch of the site, NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson called on staff to play their part in ensuring the NHS meets the leadership challenge of good corporate citizenship, and for boards and chief executives to take ownership of the issue.

David Nicholson said:

"The NHS has a massive carbon footprint, and a real responsibility to attack this issue and make a difference on climate change across the country. It's very important to our staff, who are very keen and committed in this area; and to our patients, who realise the importance of this model to their own health."

The NHS is responsible for emitting more than 18 million tonnes of CO2 per year – over 3% of England's carbon emissions; it spends £410 million on energy and £70 million disposing of waste every year. The Good Corporate Citizenship assessment model emphasises the benefits of tackling energy efficiency and reducing waste as a way to make efficiency savings, at the same time as averting climate and environmental problems.

It also goes beyond the operational issues traditionally associated with the environment, encouraging measures that will prevent illness, cut down on the need for treatment and promote healthier communities – saving money in the longer term. The model also tackles procurement, stressing the benefits to communities, local economies and the environment of local sourcing and making the supply chain more sustainable.

Case studies highlighted on the site include:

  • Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust - in the first year of an initiative to reduce its environmental impact, it increased domestic waste recycling from 4% to over 60%, reduced energy consumption by 3%, and saved over £150,000 by diverting waste from landfill and by generating income from waste metal.
  • Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust – which will save £600,000 and reduce C02 emissions by over 2000 tonnes every year with its combined heat and power system
  • Cambridge University Hospitals’ Access to Addenbrooke's project – which increased the number of staff walking to work from 4% to 11%, cycling from 17% to 28% and staff using public transport from 4% to 21%, cutting congestion and pollution, and promoting good health
  • South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust – which achieved 2% year on year carbon reductions and sources 30% of its energy from renewable sources through its 21st century mental health services programme.

Will Day, Chair of the Sustainable Development said:

"The NHS will play a crucial role in dealing with the climate, health, equality and environmental challenges ahead. The decisions it makes now can help minimise those future challenges. The good news is that they can also deliver savings - from minimising waste and energy bills, and from making communities healthier and less likely to need services further down the line. We hope the Good Corporate Citizenship assessment model will be used by every NHS trust, and prove a useful tool in enabling them to rise to the challenge and provide leadership by example to their communities and the UK as a whole."

The Good Corporate Citizenship Model is now live at: http://www.corporatecitizen.nhs.uk/

» Healthy Futures #8 - Are you a Good Corporate Citizen?

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