St George’s Hospital trials the ‘catalytic converter for gas and air’

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In a UK first, St George’s University Hospital is investing in a device in its dental unit dubbed the ‘catalytic converter of gas and air’.

Nitrous oxide, regularly combined with oxygen, to produce Entonox, provides sedation in dental and emergency procedures as well as pain relief for women in labour. The gas has almost 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.  

The mobile nitrous oxide conversion unit at St George’s will be the first in the UK to be trialled in a dental department. It breaks gas down into harmless oxygen and nitrogen before it is released, thereby reducing its impact on the environment as well as staff exposure to the medical gas. 

The new device is already being used in St George’s endoscopy and the midwifery led birth unit. Dr Emma Evans, South West London Clinical Lead for Net Zero and Consultant Anaesthetist at St George’s, says: “Patients won’t experience any difference in their clinical care and how they receive pain relief remains the same, but after its use, it will be disposed of through the device to break down the gas to be more environmentally friendly.

“After trialling mobile devices in the dental, endoscopy and midwifery led birth units, we will scope out the potential for a central system to service a larger number of clinical areas too, to further reduce our overall carbon footprint.”

This is the second time St George’s has been recognised for its sustainability strategy after the Trust was the first in the UK to decarbonise its patient menu last year.

Kate Slemeck, Managing Director for St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, adds: “These devices eliminate 99% of the nitrous oxide that is released into the environment and their implementation plays a small but very important part in our overall green plan, paving the way for us to reduce our emissions. We all have a role to play in tackling climate change and St George’s is committed to playing its part in making the NHS the world’s first net zero health service.”

Other sustainability initiatives at St George’s include: 

 • Using recycled surgical instruments and items in operating theatres, for instance, in hand surgery, an estimated 22,000 items per year have been saved from the surgical kits used in operations

• A combined heat and power plant on the St George’s site provides excess renewable energy back to the National Grid - 1.9million kWh was exported back in 2019-20, enough to boil a kettle over 46 million times

• St George’s became the first Trust in the country to introduce a carbon-neutral patient menu, sourced from ingredients with a low carbon footprint. Around 23 tonnes of carbon is saved, the equivalent of planting 30 acres of forests.



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