A new report from NHS Providers on sustainability and tackling change has been published, highlighting that “Climate change is a public health emergency”. It looks at barriers and enablers for trust boards to effect change and shares good practice from trusts across the country. This report is a much-needed step on the transformations towards net zero, sustainable practices that the health system and life sciences sector need to cement.
The NHS is responsible for 4% of the country’s carbon footprint, and climate change will have a heavy toll on the social and environmental determinants of health, such as clean air, safe drinking water, food supply and shelter. “As the country’s biggest employer, and making up over 7% of the economy, the work trust leaders are doing to tackle climate change and drive action on environmental sustainability should be an engagement activity that brings the enthusiasm of their staff to the fore”, says the publication.
It also states that health services will need to be prepared for the impact of changed weather patterns on “infrastructure, supply chains, and health needs, and for the NHS to be at the heart of local resilience planning”.
Among the report’s key findings, is that a significant majority (78%) of trust leaders agree that tackling climate change and promoting sustainability in how they work is a priority in the next year. Trusts are at different stages of progress and continue to face significant operational pressures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June 2021, the greener NHS team published guidance on ‘How to produce a Green Plan: A three-year strategy towards net zero’, setting out a requirement for all trusts and ICSs to develop a green plan, approved by the organisation or system’s board or governors. All ICSs are to submit their plans by 31 March 2022 and will be expected to feed into their ICS’ system-wide green plan. These plans will be peer reviewed by their respective NHS England and NHS Improvement regional team and subsequently published.