Urgent need for green roadmaps to deliver NHS net zero commitment

7th October 2021

As Britain’s largest employer, the NHS has a major role to play in enabling the UK to achieve its net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050. In order to be successful, NHS Trusts need to act now, so that action plans can be drawn up, funding secured, and projects launched on schedule. That’s why the NHS has given its Trusts a deadline of March 2022 to have board-approved green roadmaps in place.

In a recent article published on National Health Executive, Kirti Rudra, our Energy and Carbon Solutions Director, explains the activities the NHS can consider to decarbonise their estates.

“Compiling viable and practical carbon reduction plans demands specialist knowledge and expertise.” Kirti explains. The first task facing NHS Trusts is developing partnerships with organisations that have the necessary experience to develop roadmaps covering every aspect of NHS operations. This will help the NHS focus on its front-line core patient care responsibilities and source expert capability where required to evaluate the various options available. Trusts need to find these consultants quickly, so that the assessment, analysis and planning required to deliver an effective carbon-reduction roadmap can begin.

Kirti continued: “Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the NHS in achieving net zero carbon is the nature of its sites and premises. Every estate is different, so there can be no one-size-fits-all approach. NHS estates include everything from purpose-built hospitals to historic buildings and sprawling sites featuring a vast range of building types and ages. These buildings contain a range of different assets, heating systems and electrical infrastructure, meaning bespoke technical assessments will be required to reach net zero across every estate.” 

Decarbonising entire heating systems, for example, is especially challenging – particularly in live hospital environments that must remain fully functional 24-hours a day. She says: “It requires careful planning in partnership with multiple hospital teams to ensure the works are scheduled to minimise disruption to patient services. Many hospitals still have steam-powered heating systems, which are particularly difficult to replace. Our experience in hospitals has shown that the planning phase alone can take up to two years, before any work on site can even begin”.

Kirti adds: “Carbon reduction projects that are relatively straightforward in other environments, can raise more issues in a healthcare setting. Upgrading or replacing lighting systems with energy-efficient LED lights for example is complicated by the fact that many areas within hospitals require a specific lux level 24 hours a day.

NHS Trusts need to ensure the right balance is achieved between delivering essential services and meeting energy and carbon targets. Net zero is achievable, but requires a high degree of planning, preparation and collaboration with multiple stakeholders.

“Now is the time for action.” Kirti concluded. “The NHS has an opportunity to respond to the climate change emergency by transforming into an organisation that works in harmony with the planet – while continuing to improve health and well-being for future generations.

Read the full article in National Health Executive here: https://www.nationalhealthexecutive.com/articles/urgent-need-green-roadmaps-deliver-nhs-net-zero-commitment

Find out more about our NHS Zero service here