Region’s NHS joins forces to tackle climate crisis and improve health

Posted: 29/07/22

Ambitious targets for the North East and North Cumbria to become England’s greenest region by 2030 have been set out in a new NHS plan.

The North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), working with the region’s NHS and other partners – including Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) – has launched its first Green Plan outlining how it will reduce its carbon footprint to benefit not only the environment, but also the health and wellbeing of local people too.

A healthier planet means healthier people!

Samantha AllenChief executive of the North East and North Cumbria ICB

Chief executive of the North East and North Cumbria ICB, Samantha Allen, said: “Sustainable healthcare has a vital part to play in our ambitions to reduce health inequalities, improve the overall health of people in our region and prevent ill-health – they are all inextricably linked.

“As a region, healthy life expectancy is way behind the rest of the county and is currently under 60 years in nine of our 13 local authority areas. If we are going to address this, then we must look at the wider factors which impact on health – and the environment is a key one of these.

“For instance, we know air pollution is having a detrimental impact on health across the region with more attributable deaths per 100,000 people than London – despite London having considerably worse pollution.

“We also know that by keeping people healthy, they require less treatment and fewer medicines, which also has a lower impact on our environment – put simply a healthier planet means healthier people!”

The NHS contributes to 40 per cent of the public sector carbon footprint in the UK and the ICB’s three-year plan sets out how it will drive forward changes to address sustainability across every aspect of the NHS with eight priority areas including:

  • Reducing the amount of medicines wasted
  • Changing gases used in operating theatres
  • Using more electric vehicles
  • Ensuring new buildings are eco-friendly
  • Using renewable energy
  • Re-thinking supply chains, switching to more sustainable products and buying local where possible
  • Creating more greener spaces across healthcare sites

We have joined forces in this plan to set out a wider ambition to be the greenest region in England by 2030.

Dr Clare WinterICB senior net zero programme manager

ICB senior net zero programme manager, Dr Clare Winter, said: “The NHS is a massive consumer of energy from heating and lighting our buildings to powering the equipment that we use.

“We buy and use millions of products every day, some of which will have travelled the globe to get to our hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and clinics. Our ambulances, patient transport, delivery vans and our staff travel millions of miles every year and all of these contribute to climate breakdown and air pollution which then negatively impacts on the health of our local communities.

“So much is already happening across the region to reduce our environmental footprint but there is more we can do to make the crucial changes that are needed.

“This is why we have joined forces in this plan to set out a wider ambition to be the greenest region in England by 2030.”

CNTW has been playing a key part in this work since the launch of the Trust’s own Green Plan in April 2021, and steps taken towards greater sustainability at the Trust so far include:

  • Purchasing 100% renewable electricity
  • 1000+ trees planted, and plan to ‘re-wild’ areas of sites to benefit wildlife
  • 70% reduction in single-use plastic in the Trust’s canteens and cafes
  • Increased recycling facilities
  • Reducing energy consumption by installing insulation, LED lights etc.
  • Procurement processes and supply chains reviewed to ensure ecological and environmental impacts are considered
  • Staff cycling forum launched to encourage active travel to work

Associate director of sustainability at Newcastle Hospitals, and sustainability lead for the NENC Integrated Care System (ICS), James Dixon, said: “Our region aims to deliver its aspirational target of achieving net zero carbon for the NHS footprint, emissions it controls, by 2030 and the NHS footprint plus, emissions it can influence, by 2040 – ahead of national targets of 2040 and 2045.

“Together we are committed to developing a consistent approach, with our partners in the public and voluntary sectors, to increased sustainability, reduced consumption and recycling, improved air quality and carbon reduction, as well as increased access to green and blue spaces.

“The climate crisis is one of the biggest health challenges we face. Working across not just our NHS but with local authorities, wider partners and our communities, is a key part of our plan and will enable us to have a much wider environmental reach within our local communities.”

Read the North East and North Cumbria ICB’s Green Plan, or read more about what the ICB and other Trusts in our region are doing.