Monday, 7 September 2009

Going Green

The NHS faces a major challenge – no, not just the £20 billion that needs to be saved because of the fiscal crisis but the need to reduce the carbon footprint of healthcare.

The health sector is responding by signing up to the bold new climate change campaign 10:10. Ten NHS organisations plus the BMJ Group have committed to cutting their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010 from a 2009 base year. The target is challenging but by no means impossible for many organisations. The NHS ten include one Strategic Health Authority, several large acute teaching hospitals, two PCTs, a mental health trust, and a GP Surgery.

Green Nephrology is leading the way, Dr Andrew Connor took up his new post as "Green Nephrology Fellow" at the Campaign for Greener Healthcare on 1 September. Andrew is a specialist trainee in kidney medicine and is generously funded by NHS Kidney Care. Over the next year, he will be exploring the environmental impacts of kidney care and working with NHS staff and patients to improve practice in kidney units. Andrew has an ambitious programme of work and is supported by both the British Renal Society and the Renal Association who co-Hosted a Green Nephrology Summit earlier in the year. Given the water, electricity, dialysis consumables and amount of drugs used in Kidney care, let alone the travelling back and forth to renal units, it’s likely that kidney services can make a big contribution.

The Royal Cornwall Hospital Renal Unit has already begun a comprehensive green project and I was delighted to learn that Simeon Edwards and the team have been shortlisted for a Health Service Journal award this year . Their action plan includes energy saving in lighting and heating, greener pharmaceuticals and consumables , water reduction, managing transport to reduce carbon emissions at the same time as improving patient transport quality in addition to reducing, better management and increased recycling of waste . Everyone in the unit, patients included are playing their part. I am sure that we will all want to wish Simeon and colleagues good luck for the award. There is lots we can learn from the Cornwall team - perhaps the most import thing being - a thousand mile journey begins with the first step.

Less of the same is not the answer; we need to transform clinical services to sustain healthcare. The waste water reclamation initiative at Kent and Canterbury and the Chronic Kidney Disease electronic advisory service at Bradford are examples of different ways of doing things; both save money and save carbon. For a capital investment of £14,000 Kent and Canterbury Hospital have made an annual saving of £8000 and shown a 38% reduction in mains water usage. Well done Steve Milne.

Looking to the future, every kidney unit is going to be asking green questions, Green Nephrology and Andrew Connor’s work will help the kidney community and provide answers for some of these questions. The actions are for all of us.