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Environmental sustainability

Climate change is a critical challenge for healthcare systems, impacting patients, staff, suppliers and wider society. The NHS is responsible for 4% of England’s total carbon footprint. Air and water pollution, increasing allergens and rising temperatures all have a detrimental impact on health and wellbeing, disproportionately affecting people with long-term conditions such as respiratory issues. In response to this challenge the NHS committed in 2020 to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040. The journey to a lower carbon economy relies on harnessing sustainable innovation, coupled with changes in services and behaviour.

Occupying a unique role linking healthcare systems, research and industry, Health Innovation Networks are well placed to support the drive for environmental sustainability, working together across the country in a number of key areas including sharing best practice through webinars supporting a net zero NHS. You can catch up with recordings here or by clicking on the image at the top of the page. Topics covered include reducing the environmental impact of asthma inhalers and cutting nitrous oxide waste.

The three South East health innovation networks (Kent Surrey Sussex, Oxford and Wessex) are working together to offer practical support relating to net zero for healthcare professionals and innovators. These include:

We also established a clean air framework in partnership with Global Action Plan and four integrated care boards across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Kent and Surrey.

Health Innovation Oxford and Thames Valley has committed to match the NHS carbon reduction targets. We also ensure environmental sustainability is factored into all innovations before we support spread and adoption. Recent examples include:

Personalised approach improves patient experience before surgery and reduces hospital journeys

A digital tool is enabling more interaction by telephone rather than face-to-face prior to routine hip and knee operations – read more

Test to rule out pre-eclampsia in pregnancy has environmental benefits

Routine use of a blood test to rule out pre-eclampsia which is keeping thousands of pregnant women safe and out of hospital, as well as reducing NHS costs, has carbon reduction benefits too – read more

Environmentally-friendly product addresses urinary incontinence

Health Innovation Oxford and Thames Valley is working with Binding Sciences and Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust to develop an environmentally-friendly alternative to continence pads – read more

Amelia James

Further information:

Amelia James – Environmental Sustainability Lead for the Oxford & Thames Valley and Kent Surrey Sussex health innovation networks