Plans published to deliver ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service

The NHS has published a multiyear plan to become the world’s first carbon net zero national health system.

Just before the COVID outbreak, a campaign For a Greener NHS was launched, which has now been brought back in to focus with the new plan.

The report sets out the advances that the NHS has made in improving the carbon footprint and reducing the environmental impact of services to date. It’s responsible for around 4% of the nation’s carbon emissions. The new plan sets out objectives and timescales to achieve net zero.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “2020 has been dominated by Covid-19 and is the most pressing health emergency facing us. But undoubtedly climate change poses the most profound long-term threat to the health of the nation.”

“It is not enough for the NHS to treat the problems caused by air pollution and climate change – from asthma to heart attacks and strokes – we need to play our part in tackling them at source.”

“The NHS has already made significant progress decarbonising our care, but as the largest employer in Britain, responsible for around 4% of the nation’s carbon emissions, if this country is to succeed in its overarching climate goals the NHS has to be a major part of the solution.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said: “Cutting carbon emissions is essential to protect health, everywhere in the world. I welcome the leadership of the largest single health system in the world, the National Health Service in England, in committing to be carbon neutral in its own operations by 2040, and to drive emissions reductions in its suppliers and partners. Health is leading the way to a greener, safer planet.”

Interventions include:

  • new ways of delivering care at or closer to home, meaning fewer patient journeys to hospitals;
  • greening the NHS fleet, including working towards road-testing a zero-emissions emergency ambulance by 2022;
  • reducing waste of consumable products and switching to low-carbon alternatives where possible;
  • making sure new hospitals and buildings are built to be net-zero emissions, and;
  • building energy conservation into staff training and education programmes.