Target 2030 for Scotland

NHS Scotland: environmental plans and progress

The Scottish Government has announced that Scotland’s NHS has stopped using anaesthetic gas desflurane as part of their efforts to become more environmentally friendly and reduce their carbon footprint.

Removing desflurane from use in hospital theatres across NHS Scotland is said to save emissions equivalent to powering 1,700 homes every year.

The work has been led by clinicians who have moved away from using desflurane in favour of clinically appropriate and safe alternatives that have a lower impact on the environment.

Withdrawal of the gas comes as the first action in the National Green Theatres Programme, due to formally launch in spring 2023. As part of the NHS Scotland Climate Emergency and Sustainability strategy, the programme will analyse areas where operating theatres can become more environmentally friendly.

We took a look at the strategy to find out more.

NHS Scotland Climate Emergency and Sustainability strategy

The strategy, published last summer, sets forwards plans for NHS Scotland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change and reduce impact on environment. It has been developed by the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland Assure.

The strategy highlights five main themes with associated actions and targets in place to achieve their net-zero ambitions.

Sustainable buildings and land

Here, the aim is to:

  • Reduce building greenhouse gas emissions
  • Adapt estate to climate change impacts
  • Embed good environmental stewardship of buildings, services and infrastructure assets
  • Reduce waste and improve management
  • Protect, value and manage green spaces
  • Create a sustainable future development of their NHS healthcare estate

NHS Scotland’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their buildings by 75 percent by 2030, use renewable heating systems by 2038 for all NHS buildings, and for all the estate to have emissions at net-zero by 2040 or earlier.

Focusing on their green spaces, they are working with local communities and partners to manage and develop the public asset to improve public health, and reduce health inequalities.

Sustainable travel is the second are the strategy focuses on. This aims to:

  • Reduce the need to travel
  • Promote active travel
  • Promote community and public transport
  • Decarbonise their business travel and fleet

The strategy emphasises the impact that walking, cycling, wheeling and taking public transport to use NHS services could have on the environment. It notes that NHS Scotland is working to improve the access for people with low incomes, along with tackling climate change through reducing travel emissions, improving air quality, and ultimately improving health.

NHS Scotland is to support the Scottish Government’s ambition to develop twenty-minute neighbourhoods, to provide people with everyday essentials that are located within a twenty-minute walking distance.

They are also working towards removing all “fossil-fuelled small and light commercial vehicles in the NHS fleet.” They are to ensure all vehicles are powered by renewables by 2025, while also installing electric vehicle charging points throughout their NHS estate.

The third area of the strategy focuses on sustainable goods and services, to reduce demand on resources and avoid creating waste. This aims to:

  • Create circularity in supply chains and reduce waste by maximising reuse and repair
  • Reduce social and environmental impacts from their supply chains
  • Increase the resilience of their supply chain to climate change
  • Improve how they deal with material, equipment and goods at end of life

NHS Scotland will make decisions about the goods they procure and choose products designed for durability, easy upgraded and repaired, while also being recycled at the end of their life.

The Scottish Government has developed a NHS Scotland Circular Economy Programme designed to support “the transition to more circular supply systems.” Alongside this, they have created a programme to reduce to number of PPE used, and to increase reusable PPE and recycling.

The fourth area of the strategy focuses on sustainable care and how it can have an impact on communities and the environment to work towards a net-zero health service. Ths includes work around:

  • Green health activities and sustainable care pathways
  • Inhalers
  • Medicines
  • Realistic medicine
  • Supporting primary care
  • Green theatres
  • Medical gases

They aim to support professionals to “practice Realistic Medicine and deliver personalised care,”; tackle unwarranted variation within health, outcomes and treatments; and practise shared decision-making.

A methodology will also be developed for analysing the environmental impact of different models of care, including sustainable use of resources and the health and environmental “co-benefits of more sustainable care models when redesigning services.”

Within the strategy, they are developing their clinical decision support tools and guidance to inform patients about medication and treatment, promote shared decision-making and provide clinicians with updated evidence based prescribing advice.

The strategy shares an aim to reduce emissions through the use metered dose inhalers by 70 percent by 2028. At this point, they will review the progress before setting more targets in place to achieve net-zero.

The final area of the strategy works at improving sustainable communities. This aims to:

  • Support health and wellbeing
  • Build community resilience
  • Engage communities.

The strategy outlines how NHS Scotland will work with partners, Public Health Scotland and local authorities to “bring sustainability, better health and fairness to all communities.” They will also encourage and support improvements in housing, transport and planning to ensure different populations are not disadvantaged.

To read the strategy in full, click here.