Date: 07/11/21

Categories: COP26   Health   

This article was written by Alison Foster, Programme Director – Building Berkshire Together Hospital Redevelopment.

Climate change poses a major risk to health. Air pollution is the single greatest environmental threat to health in the UK, accounting for 1 in 20 deaths. Therefore tackling climate change by reducing harmful carbon emissions will improve health and save the lives of many.

Last year the NHS became the world’s first health service to commit to a target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. As part of the healthcare sector, we’re responsible for 4% of the national carbon footprint.

If you’ve ever been in a healthcare setting, it’s easy to see why. We use disposable equipment for each individual part of a patient’s journey for necessary hygiene and infection prevention reasons. From disposable protective clothing worn by healthcare workers; the plastic blood tubes and disposable syringes for taking a routine blood sample to the plastic covers on thermometers; and drug blister packs and packaging – this is just the tip of the single-use plastic iceberg as far as healthcare is concerned. In addition, we rely on anaesthetic gases, other medical gases and inhalers, and these will be some of our first priorities in switching to lower carbon alternatives.

We are Reading’s largest employer, so take the impact of our near 6,000-strong workforce’s commute, the travel impact of patients and visitors, the energy inefficiency of some of our aging buildings, and you get an idea of the impact we can make by reducing our carbon footprint.

At the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust we’ve been gathering information and ideas from staff, patients and stakeholders in order to help us achieve our goal of reaching Net Zero by 2040. This feedback has helped us to create our first ever Green Plan, which we’ll be publishing early next year.

Even before the NHS had declared their Net Zero ambitions, we had started some impressive carbon reducing projects, ranging from running a small fleet of electric pool cars (which have saved 73,500kg of CO2 emissions over the past 5 years) to replacing the Royal Berkshire Hospital’s old, inefficient heating system with a future-ready one which has already saved 800 tonnes of carbon.

We are planning a major redevelopment or rebuild of the Royal Berkshire Hospital to modernise our buildings and services. Our new hospital will be designed with the very latest technology built in to deliver the very best services. It will be a low-carbon site that is clean, green and easy to maintain… truly sustainable in every sense of the word.

Through our carbon reducing projects, our hospital redevelopment and the actions from our Green Plan, we’ll make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint. Watch out for our Green Plan in the new year and in the meantime if you have any ideas and suggestions on what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint, email us at: greenroyalberkshire@royalberkshire.nhs.uk

 

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