Why sustainability matters

Jerome Baddley

For NHS Sustainability Day 2017 one of our key areas of focus is energy. 

If you look at the cost of energy to the NHS as a whole, being one of the UK’s largest estate managers our energy bill each year is around £560 million. Over the last ten years we have invested heavily in energy efficiency measures across NHS organisations. This has meant that our energy bill is around £190 million less each year than it would have been, with the increasing demands for NHS services and rising energy costs.

While new technology plays a big part there is also a lot individuals can do to reduce energy consumption. Whilst home energy saving is great for reducing bills, taking those same behaviours into the workplace can also be good for patients, it redirects money for better frontline care and protects the environment.  

Over the last few years the Sustainable Development Unit have encouraged the use of ‘NHS Sustainability Day’ as a way NHS organisations can raise awareness of the issues, highlight good practice and help people to appreciate the co benefits that sustainable behaviours bring.

Great for costs, care and carbon emissions

A great example of how energy efficient behaviour in the NHS can be good for patients is the work at Barts Health NHS Trust in London supported by the charity Global Action Plan. 

Since 2013 Barts staff have run Operation TLC across the trust’s six hospitals in East London.  Nurses, doctors, facilities, security and cleaning staff took three simple actions to achieve energy and noise reduction:

  • T – turn off equipment when not in use 
  • L – switch off lights where possible 
  • C – close doors and windows 

The project has saved £428,000 each year, enough for 18 new nurses. 38 per cent fewer patients asked nurses to change room temperature and patients reported a reduction in sleep disruptions and fewer intrusions into their privacy. Nurses also noticed visitors and patients had better interactions when visitors returned and staff had time to catch-up, reflect and plan while patients rested.

Get Energy Smart

We’re working with Smart Energy GB as there’s a national roll out of smart energy meters. The NHS is the world’s 5th largest employer and represents up to 5 per cent of the UK workforce. In fact a staggering 10 per cent of the entire workforce are employed in health and social care sector. So this collaboration is an amazing opportunity to reach a significant proportion of the UK’s working population. Having a smart meter at home can help reduce energy consumption and ensure our bills are accurate. This is great for families and particularly households in fuel poverty, who may be struggling to pay their energy bills. Providing resources to help people control their energy usage can potentially have a health benefit as well as reducing household bills and we’re excited to help create that connection. 

A sustainable future

Sustainability for the NHS is about providing the health services that society needs, affordably, now and for future generations.

Travel is a great example of this, if we move away from fossil based travel, it could save money and reduce air pollution. That reduction of air pollution means that we protect the health of people in the future. A cost saving measure creates an environmental benefit that has a longer term social benefit which comes back as a saving to the NHS later. 

Thinking about things as a holistic cycle is the key to sustainability in the NHS, embedding solutions and resources that we need for a fully sustainable health and social care system. 

It’s really important that we all play our part in becoming more sustainable and energy efficient. Little steps by your employees can make a real difference, so I would highly recommend that you use the Get Energy Smart toolkit to support your local NHS Sustainability Day 2017 campaign.  

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