Delivering a Net Zero NHS
When Newcastle Hospitals declared a climate emergency, it was a recognition of the threat climate
change presents not just to our planet, but to our health, wealth and wellbeing.
Most people will associate climate change with rising global temperatures and an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, like flooding, drought and forest fires. They might think about fossil fuel pollution and the links to increases in respiratory and heart diseases.
People might recognition that the extreme heatwaves we have increasingly seen in the UK, cause excess deaths – Up to a 1,000 of them during summer 2019 and that poor air quality in our cities regularly breaches World Health Organisation safe limits.
But the scale of the impact on health it is possibly not well known.
Air pollution is the number one environmental risk to human health in the UK. It’s the fourth greatest long-term threat to public health after cancer, heart disease and obesity.
It is linked to around 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK and a cost to the economy and the NHS of over £20 billion.
These impacts increase the strain on our healthcare system. If we fail to address this we will need to spend more money and effort in dealing with the consequences of climate change.
The NHS creates more than 5% of the UK’s total carbon footprint, around 27 million tonnes of carbon each year, we have to recognise that we are a significant part of the problem.
We can also be a significant part of the solution.
In 2019 Newcastle Hospitals became the first health organisation in the world to declare a climate emergency. We have made great progress:
- We have some of the best recycling rates of non-clinical waste – 43% of our non-clinical waste is recycled.
- We have continued to reduce our carbon emissions – 5% in the last year.
- We have halved our use of volatile anaesthetic gases.
Most importantly for me, huge numbers of our people are engaged. This is something that staff care about, and are proactively taking action. We have over 300 green champions who are constantly looking to make a positive impact. Sustainability is part of what we do here and it’s an important factor that helps us to flourish.
Yesterday the NHS net zero panel published ‘Delivering a ‘NetZero’ National Health Service’ which sets out the urgency of the task, and includes a clear commitment and credible plan for the NHS to become the world’s first ‘net zero’ national health service.
It includes positive flagship actions around decarbonising transport, stretching the net zero ambition to our supply chain, supporting digital transformation and by updating the NHS Constitution to include the response to climate change, which I wholeheartedly welcome.
Also on 1 October, ‘First, do no harm’ was launched – an international project from Healthcare Without Harm, Freethink and the Skoll Foundation which discusses the impact of fossil fuel emissions on human health and explores collective action to protect peoples health from climate change. I was pleased to be able to share our journey, and contribute to raising awareness of the health impacts of climate breakdown: https://healthforclimate.org/
I’m proud to be a member of the NHS net zero expert panel, and delighted that Newcastle Hospitals continues to be leading the NHS to a greener future. Thank you for your ongoing actions and commitment to our planet. Let’s be frank, our future depends on it. Find out what we have been doing – watch our video here
In my last blog I talked about the tough times that we’re facing, and I’m grateful to those who emailed me and recognised that experience of struggling at the moment.
I hope that those who attended our Flourish event ‘Taking care of yourself and your future’ with Steve Head found it helpful. There is a huge range of resources for staff available, and please continue to let me know if there are other things that would help. Steve will be holding a second event for staff on Thursday 5 November at 3.30pm. If you would like to attend, please email: [email protected]
I promised that we were looking at continuing our improvements to staff facilities following on from the new fruit stall at our Freeman Hospital. This week, we opened the piano room (alongside the Bistro at the RVI) permanently to create more room for staff to take a break.
Plans are also being developed to create some additional rest facilities for staff in the Leazes Wing by converting part of the existing medical records store and opening the space up into the existing conservatory.
We hope to have the area open for staff before Christmas. In the longer term, our catering team are looking to introduce ways of enabling staff to order food from their smart devices.
October is always a busy month, and I’m pleased to be able to provide these important updates
Our staff survey launched this week and this year it’s more important than ever that everyone is able to share their views, in confidence, about what it’s like to be a member of the team.
This year the survey will ask some questions about your experience working through the pandemic. I know that everyone has worked so hard during the pandemic so far and I know that has been a really tough experience.
We each have a voice and we want to hear your feedback – good and bad – so we can understand what it’s been like for you. It only takes about ten minutes to fill in, so please find the time if you can.
There is a risk that this winter we will have COVID-19 and flu co-circulating together. This is likely to further impact on the population and further challenge our healthcare services.
We know that having your flu vaccine is the best protection you can give yourself and those around you against the flu.
The flu team have worked hard to make sure you can get your jab safely and easily. Find out more information on the Intranet about how you can get your jab and make sure you get #protected.
Black History Month
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout October we have a programme of events for staff to join, including online seminars, poetry readings and a mini exhibition.
The first event will take place on Friday 9 October and will focus on the important of allyship, facilitated by Odeth Richardson, chair of the BAME staff network.
You can find a full programme of events on the Intranet. If you would like to find out more about or you would like to book a space, please email: [email protected]
Our Staff Network have also worked with the catering service to deliver a selection of ‘food from around the world’ in our staff canteens. Yesterday was ‘African themed’ and I have seen on Twitter some of our staff have been enjoying these dishes for their lunch.
Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, and to reduce your risk of complications from COVID-19.
Since the programme started in May, an amazing 31 out of 45 members of staff have set a quit date and 21 of those have already quit smoking so we know it works.
Our local partners, Healthworks are offering staff tremendous support to staff who smoke to make to make one of the biggest and most important changes in their life with a free 12 week programme of stop smoking support.
NHS staff are also being given one month free access to the ‘Smoke Free’ app. Please email
[email protected] for further information.
Speak up month
It is important that all staff are able to speak out and be listened to make sure we are getting things right for our patients and colleagues, even during these difficult times.
October is national ‘speaking up’ month and I am keen to for staff make sure they familiarise themselves with ways they can raise concerns at work.
There are a number of routes to report concerns and raise issues that may occur in the workplace. This could be about patient safety or quality, staff safety including concerns about inappropriate behaviour and governance matters.
You can find out more about these routes and the details of our Freedom to Speak up Guardian on the Trust intranet.
Annual members meeting
Our virtual Annual Members’ Meeting took place today, reflecting on our exceptional year. Have a look at our video review of our achievements and special moments – its an emotional one: https://vimeo.com/463075900