The climate emergency is a health emergency. Climate change threatens the foundations of good health, with direct and immediate consequences for our patients, the public and the NHS. As the biggest employer in this country, there is more that the NHS, working together with its partners can do. The NHS makes up approximately 5% of the UK’s carbon footprint and is striving to be the first national health service to achieve net zero carbon by 2040.
In order to support the NHS net zero ambition, NHS North East London Integrated Care System (NEL ICS) has developed a NEL ICS Green Plan as per the NHS Net Zero Strategy. This plan sets out our aims, objectives and delivery plans for carbon reduction in collaboration with our ICS partners, presenting an opportunity to deliver a unified message to our staff, patients and residents across NEL. It includes four core carbon reduction targets in order to achieve net zero, with the first target of 80% carbon reduction by 2028.
Responding effectively and with urgency to the climate emergency is an opportunity for us to contribute to our Long-Term Plan and its wider aim of improving health and wellbeing. Carbon is embedded into every decision we make, from the medicines we prescribe to our transport operations, the energy that powers buildings and our significant supply chains that stretch around the globe – some of the ways we are currently delivering health and care services in NEL cause a negative impact on the environment and our health and wellbeing. Our footprint across NEL is vast – the more we reduce our environmental footprint, the more we positively impact on health and wellbeing in north east London.
Since early 2020 we have been investing in collaborative action on climate change. We developed a climate action network as one of four pillars of our NEL Anchor programme supported by external consultants working with staff on the green agenda to shape the action. Our end goal is that climate action becomes business as usual, and to do this, we are working on a number of workstreams as listed below to help us as an organisation to enable this change in shift to becoming a greener NHS.
Workstreams of the plan
Through our workforce plan, we will encourage and support all NEL ICS staff to make low carbon decisions at every stage of service design and delivery. We will do this by involving staff in our approach and ask ‘what does low carbon mean to you and how can we help you do it?’ We will provide training and support to those learning how, and we will resource and equip those taking a lead through remuneration and career development.
Estates and facilities
This is the longest running area of action across all of our organisations and the traditional home for action on climate change and environmental improvements. It is here we must raise the bar for our ICS ambition. Through this workstream we have identified significant opportunities to support other partner’s capital investments – as well as gathering the insight to make informed decision on future collaborative projects which will create change at scale.
Climate change is already affecting health and care services, from increased overheating in hospitals, to more frequent risk and disruption from flooding and high winds. It is essential that we work together across our infrastructure and supply chains to prevent and minimise the impact on our services, patients and residents.
Supply chain and procurement
Carbon is embedded in every spending decision we make. We will equip all procurement staff with the tools and commitment to enable low carbon decisions, and take advantage of collaborative opportunities.
Anaesthetic gases make up 11% of the NEL carbon footprint. Metered dose inhalers are 18%. We have the evidence and tools to eliminate much of this impact. Our NEL Responsible Respiratory Prescribing Group is working across the ICS to make this happen. Reducing the impact of medicines is as much about training, engagement and patient-centred care as it is about clinical or purchasing decisions. Our carbon reduction efforts will align with providing the best possible care for our patients and residents as a priority.
Travel and transport
14% of London traffic relates to people travelling for NHS business or appointments, while physical inactivity costs the NHS up to £1 billion per annum, with further indirect costs of £8.2 billion. We are working closely with each of the boroughs via our NEL Green Travel Working Group as it is essential to increasing safe active travel, and work collaboratively to provide clear consistent messaging that informs, understands behaviours and creates choice.
Food and nutrition
Good quality food and nutrition are synonymous with good health, and with low carbon choices. There is place-based work happening across the partnership to promote sustainable and healthy diets and reduce food waste. Our work within the ICS Plan is an opportunity to join the dots, accelerate impact and enable change.
Green spaces and improved wellbeing
Access to greenspace provide many health benefits, including improved levels of mental health, physical fitness, cognitive and immune function, as well as lower mortality rates. Increased access to greenspace also improves our relationship with nature, making people far more likely to make low carbon (and pro-nature) choices and actions.
Digital transformation is utilising technology to streamline health and care, while reducing its associated cost and carbon. We will ensure that patients can be seen in the right place at the right time. We will use technology to help clinicians to make informed decisions about the carbon cost of their care and we will implement projects at scale to reduce our digital footprint across NEL.
Models of care
Incorporating and investing in low carbon thinking, assessments, education and opportunities for innovation into the way we design our health and care services will make it far easier to deliver low carbon services further down the line.
Read the full plan on our journey towards a net zero health and care system, including actions and timescales.
Green Plans from our partners:
While it is a requirement from NHS England, the collaborative nature of an ICS Plan presents a significant opportunity for all partners.
Each NHS Trust and Local Authority has its own Green Plan (or plan of similar title) that commits the organisation or borough to its local priorities – it is essential that we do not lose sight of this local focus and benefit.
Each NHS Trust was mandated to submit a Green Plan in January 2022. All the NHS Green Plans across the NEL footprint are listed below:
- NHS Property environmental commitments
- Barts Green Plan, January 2022
- BHRUT Green Plan, January 2022
- ELFT Green Plan, January 2022
- Homerton Green Plan, January 2022
- NELFT Green Plan, January 2022
- London Ambulance Service Carbon Neutral Plan April 2022 – March 2025
All of the local authorities in north east London are committed to tackling climate change and you can read their Plans here: