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Green Benefits

Health services have a huge environmental impact.  They are a big producer of greenhouse gases (GHG), which cause climate change.  In 2007, NHS England was responsible for 21 million tonnes of GHG (measured in CO2 equivalents) – that’s over 3% of the UK’s entire carbon footprint.

Importantly, two-thirds of the GHG (or carbon) arise not from energy use in NHS buildings, but from the products and services which the NHS buys in – especially pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. 

The NHS is working to reduce its GHG emissions, and many NHS organisations are now developing their own sustainability strategies: tackling the energy efficiency of their buildings, reviewing travel and parking policies, and working with their procurement teams to insert green clauses into purchasing contracts.

However, many opportunities can only be found at ward or department level: the Trust Board can decide a hospital’s electricity supply, but clinical teams determine how many patients need to stay overnight, which tests and procedures get done, what stock is used, and what communications are made.  By taking part in SAP, clinical teams can make a big difference to carbon savings by making sure that these resources are targeted to where they are needed, and not wasted.

Of course, the green benefits are not just about reduced greenhouse gas emissions: using supplies more efficiently also reduces the other pollution associated with their production, transport and disposal, and saves on the use of water and natural resources.  In addition, by developing sustainable practices as a team, staff, patients and visitors can see the benefits for themselves, and will often make similar changes in other aspects of their lives.