Sustainability: the scale of the challenge


The second in HEFMA’s Virtual Series, focusing on Sustainability, was another informative event followed by an extensive Q&A session.

Nick Phillips, Trent Branch Chair and HEFMA’s Sustainability Lead, introduced three speakers: 

• Dr Richard Hixson, Consultant in Anaesthesia & Critical Care at County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust; the Trust's Clinical Lead for Sustainability; Trustee of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare; member of NHS England's Sustainable Procurement and Supplier Forums and co-founder of NHS Ocean 

• Simon Adamson, Deputy Director of Estates & Facilities at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust

• Alexis Percival, Environmental and Sustainability Manager at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

Sustainability is a vast topic for NHS Trusts across England, which are now developing their Green Plans to enable them to meet the Net Zero Carbon commitment set out by the government. It’s a massive target, to meet which will require widespread action across all aspects of delivering healthcare – going far beyond the obvious topics of energy-efficiency and renewables – involving everyone that works within the health service and necessitating significant cultural and behavioural change.

The programme of our VS event reflected this challenge in the topics covered.

Many will never have considered the importance of the oceans to the health of the planet, or the damage that is being done to them through container shipping and pollution from other sources. Every time goods destined for the NHS are sourced and transported from around the world, the NHS supply chain is contributing to this damage. Dr Richard Hixson’s presentation was clearly thought-provoking for many, with delegates questioning whether NHS Supply Chain was aware of this issue and how the NHS could exert its buying power.

New ways of working have been forced on the NHS throughout the pandemic, but many appreciate that they have brought advantages. From a carbon reduction point of view, having fewer staff working from a central base when they don’t need to has had an impact on the space that needs to be provided, with its associated lighting and heating, as well as on commuter and business travel. 

Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust has embarked on a significant project to establish how far new ways of working can be retained and extended further as we move out of the pandemic. Simon shared the work of the Trust so far on this project. It was clear that this approach was welcomed with questions around cultural change, staff satisfaction and changing the commute.

Electrification of the vehicle fleet is one of the most significant pieces of work that the NHS has to tackle as it contributes to between five and seven per cent of road traffic. Specific targets have been set for the NHS to meet for moving its own vehicle fleet to electric or ultra-low emission vehicles, and it is also expected to influence the travel choices that staff make for their commute to work. 

Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) has around 1,200 vehicles that it needs to decarbonise, but nationwide the service has around 14,000 vehicles. Alexis outlined the Zero Emission Strategy at YAS and the scale of the challenge, highlighting the requirements around infrastructure, grid upgrades, hydrogen infrastructure, rapid recharging points, funding and the scale of the gap. For instance, ambulances will need rapid recharging points at A&E at hospitals across the country - there are currently none – and there are only 140 charging points in the entire UK ambulance service stations to date. 

A recording of the webinar is now available from the 'My Region' section of this website to logged-in members. A report will also be published in the July/August issue of Pulse.

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