Giving the NHS the tools it needs to act on the climate emergency

Whilst we are all in the middle of coping with the Emergency care crisis there is unfortunately also a need to address the climate emergency and the healthcare problems it will bring.

At RCEM work is underway to find out how to make the practice of Emergency Medicine environmentally sustainable whilst maintaining standards, in a way that will also address some of the causes of the care crisis we are currently facing.

NHS England is a world leader in healthcare system sustainability with the creation and work of the Greener NHS.  It has set a target for NHS England to get to Net Zero by 2040 you can have a closer look at their work here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/greenernhs/whats-already-happening/

Currently the Health and Care Bill which is going through parliament is setting out recommendations for the integration of healthcare systems in NHS England. It is legislating for every part of England to be covered by integrated care boards and integrated care partnership and thus will have a large effect on how our services are commissioned and run.

Unfortunately six amendments which tried to get the bill to address both the climate emergency and achieve net zero targets were rejected. The six amendments are as follows:

  • Requirements for decisions to take account of the climate emergency
  • A designated member of integrated care boards with responsibility for the climate emergency and environment
  • A duty for integrated care boards to contribute to achievements of climate emergency goals
  • The climate emergency and environment to be included in matters which Integrated Care Providers will have control of
  • NHS payment scheme to support actions to meet net zero emissions targets
  • Requires NHS procurement regulations to incentivise actions to meet UK net zero emission targets.

So what can we do now?

This week RCEM has signed a letter co-ordinated by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change to the Secretary of State for Health and Care urging him to support the above amendments to ensure that all levels of the NHS will have the power to tackle the climate emergency. This in turn will improve the health of our patients and in reducing the impact that global heating will have on the services we provide.

If you want to find out more about what RCEM is doing to improve environmental sustainability and how you could get involved then please sign up for our training day on 8 Feb https://rcem.ac.uk/events/environmental-sustainability-in-emergency-medicine/

by Dr Sandy Robertson

Chair of the Environmental Special Interest Group at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine

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