NHS England aims to become world’s first net zero health service

NHS England aims to become world’s first net zero health service

For the first time in its history, every NHS Trust in England has a plan in place to cut carbon emissions and reach net zero.  


The ambitious plans involve saving over one million tonnes of carbon over the next three years, across over 1,000 hospitals and 212 NHS Trusts in England. The long-term goal is to become the world’s first net zero health service.  


The NHS England website explains how each of the NHS Trust Green Plans were developed: 


“Identifying a route to net zero emissions for a complex system as large as the NHS is particularly challenging. To understand how and when the NHS can reach net zero we established an NHS Net Zero Expert Panel, reviewed nearly 600 pieces of evidence submitted to us and conducted extensive analysis and modelling. 


“The targets set are as ambitious as possible, while remaining realistic; and are supported by immediate action and a commitment to continuous monitoring, evaluation and innovation.” 


The NHS aims to reach an 80% reduction in emissions by 2028 to 2032, and net zero by 2040. These targets are for direct emissions, with slightly stretched timelines for indirect emissions related to NHS services.  


How sustainable is the NHS? 


Around 40% of all public sector emissions are generated by the NHS, as is 3.5% of all road transport.  

The healthcare organisation announced its intention to target net zero back in October 2020. It was the first health service in the world to commit to net zero, and published a report ‘Delivering a Net Zero Health Service’ to explain its plans.  


One year on, and the NHS managed to reduce emissions equivalent to powering 1.1 million homes a year.  


There was also a crucial funding injection from the UK Government. Around £330 million was pledged in order to improve hospital energy efficiency and kick start decarbonisation projects. The key aim was to drive down emissions, but it’s also expected to save the NHS around £463 million in energy costs over the next five years.  


According to Dr Nick Watts, NHS Chief Sustainability Officer, the majority of NHS staff are fully behind the shift to net zero. Writing on the NHS blog, he said:  


“We already know that nine in ten staff support a net zero NHS, because they understand the impact it will have on improving health, now and for future generation, and because greener care simply equals high quality care.” 


Key achievements so far 


In other major milestones, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust managed to perform the world’s first net zero operation. Taking place in May 2022, the operation took place using energy efficient equipment and procedures. This included injecting anaesthetic directly into the patient’s veins, rather than using environmentally-harmful gases.


The NHS has also rolled out its first fully electric HGV for the transport of vital medical supplies, with more energy-efficient vehicles expected to follow.  


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