Our Climate Emergency – 1 year on

Tomorrow (27th June) marks the one year anniversary of our declaration of a Climate Emergency.

We knew we were taking a bold step in becoming the first NHS Trust to commit to achieving net zero carbon.

What we didn’t realise was that we were setting the level of ambition for the global health sector as the first healthcare organisation in the world to take this step and publicly acknowledge the critical impact of climate change on the health of our planet and our population.

There has been an unprecedented level of interest from other healthcare organisations in our Sustainable Healthcare in Newcastle (Shine) work.

Trusts around the UK and organisations around the world have been keen to learn how we gained support for this declaration, and how we plan to achieve our ambitions of net zero carbon healthcare services.

I’m proud that we have inspired many others to take action on climate breakdown.

Achievements over the last year

We have embedded Climate Emergency action, carbon reduction and energy efficiency as a strategic priority for our organisation and over the last year we’ve made strong progress in many areas:

  • Strengthening our leadership focus by forming an Executive Oversight Group for Climate Emergency
  • Achieving a 5% reduction in direct carbon emissions over the last year
  • Signing the NHS Plastic Pledge
  • Won two NHS Sustainability Awards
  • We’ve banned diesel for all new fleet, lease and hire vehicles
  • Introduced Meat Free Mondays
  • Becoming the first Trust to introduce Ecosia as our default search engine – planting trees in the process
  • Recycling 43% of our non-clinical waste
  • We’ve installed six more electric vehicle charging points on our sites
  • Delivered a 45% reduction in the carbon footprint associated with volatile anaesthetic gas use
  • Introduced e-bikes for our medical courier service between RVI and Centre for Life
  • Delivered a 16% reduction in heat demand at the Freeman Hospital from Estates improvements
  • Become a partner in an innovative European project “Towards plastic free healthcare in Europe”
  • Committed to achieving Passivhaus standard and BREEAM Outstanding on all new builds and major refurbishments – ensuring that we don’t lock ourselves into a carbon intensive estate

I know that taking action to support our planet is a subject that gets our staff really engaged and inspired.

If we are to achieve our ambitions, we need everyone to play their part and to inspire their colleagues. I’m delighted to say that teams taking part in our ‘Green Impact’ employee engagement programme logged 216 sustainable local actions this year.

In a year that has been dominated by coronavirus it is a testament to our staff that we have been able to make such impressive progress towards our goals.

Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to test out and accelerate some of the potential carbon reduction initiatives we had planned – like virtual outpatient appointments and staff working from home – eliminating the need for many to travel to our hospitals.

Our increase in remote outpatient consultations in April & May alone have avoided 1.2 million patient vehicle miles. This has saved our patients over 60,000 hours of their precious time and reduced our environmental impact by an estimated 320 tonnes of carbon.

Since making the public declaration, we have played a pivotal role both regionally and nationally, working in collaboration with civic partners in Newcastle, colleagues across our regional Integrated Care System and joined a panel of international experts tasked with identifying how quickly the NHS can achieve net zero carbon.

Future plans

The challenges ahead of us can’t be underestimated, and we need the whole NHS to join us. My vision is for Newcastle Hospitals to become the most sustainable organisation it can be and to continue to inspire others, thrive and continue to provide outstanding care to patients. I want us to embed sustainability into our culture and empower everyone to deliver sustainable healthcare in Newcastle and beyond.

We’re now focusing our efforts on strengthening our approach to decarbonisation to improve the lives of people who live and work across the North East and Cumbria, and beyond. I have been incredibly impressed with the passion and ingenuity already being used across the health sector; we will all benefit from this ambition.

In the coming weeks we’re also introducing a sustainability fund to support staff to make an impact and support more real changes. Our actions need to continue at every level for us to succeed.

I look forward to supporting our cherished NHS to become more sustainable, now and for the future.

If you would like to sign up as a Green Champion, to champion sustainability in your area, or wish to contact the Sustainability Team please email [email protected]

You can also follow the work of the Sustainability Team on Twitter: @SustainableNUTH

You can read more about the sustainability work taking place at Newcastle Hospitals in our Annual Sustainability Report which will be available to read here