NHS Sustainability Day 2023: How to take action as an individual, team or healthcare organisation

The NHS Sustainability Day of Action is quickly approaching. Over the past year, we have seen a growing number of NHS employees improve the sustainability of their practices, preserving resources for future generations while providing high-quality care. We would like to say thank you for encouraging other healthcare professionals and patients to engage in sustainable practices and for implementing initiatives that will have a substantial collective impact.

What is NHS Sustainability Day?

The annual NHS Sustainability Day of Action was established in 2013 to acknowledge and spread environmental and social good practices across the health sector through campaigns, events, and national awards. This year the Sustainability Day of Action is being held on the 15th June with the theme “Delivering a Net Zero NHS".

Through this annual day, NHS and health professionals can showcase how they are driving sustainability whilst celebrating their achievements and engaging with staff, patients and visitors" -  Sustainability Partnerships

Why is it important to put sustainability at the heart of the NHS?

The NHS alone accounts for approximately 5% of the UK's carbon footprint and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through climate change mitigation and adaptation is essential to decreasing health risks for both the environment and our communities.

In October 2020, the NHS became the world’s first national health system to make net zero commitments and develop clear goals and objectives. Although the public backs the NHS's net zero ambition, addressing climate change is low down the public’s priority for the NHS.

The NHS has the power and responsibility to influence action on a broader scale. Becoming a leader in environmental sustainability can demonstrate how a healthy and thriving environment can improve the wider determinants of health and support community development.

To find out what sustainability initiatives occurred throughout 2022, browse through our Green Team Competition reports, and scholar case studies. You can also read the Sustainability Partnerships 2022 impact report or the state of health and care 2022 report from the Institute for Public Policy Research.

What is happening on NHS Sustainability Day?

On the 15th of June, Sustainability Partnerships will be hosting a free one-hour webinar with a range of industry speakers that will delve into the new technologies, services and processes that are available to reduce the NHS scope 1,2,3 and 4 emissions. Register for the event here.

The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare and NHS Forest have worked alongside Sustainability Partnerships to create a toolkit on how to improve and use your green spaces for the health and wellbeing benefit of your patients, staff, and the wider community.

How can I get involved?

Through collaboration and idea-sharing we can work together towards a more sustainable NHS. 

source: The Sustainability Day of Action: Delivering a Net-Zero NHS, Sustainability Partnerships

As an Individual:

As a Team:

  • Your team has the ability to transform care by opting for low-carbon treatments and technologies where appropriate:
    • Discuss with patients the environmental impact of different medication options e.g. the NICE patient decision-aid can help health professionals discuss with patients the benefits of switching to a lower-carbon inhaler.
    • Anaesthetics, A&E and maternity services staff can reduce the use of polluting anaesthetic gases like nitrous oxide or desflurane.
    • Incorporate green social prescribing into practice, such as green walking.
    • Dentistry teams can reduce the environmental impact of their practice by using this guide.
  • Read your trust/board Green Plan and help implement NHS Net Zero ambitions in your area.
  • Celebrate your team’s commitment by sharing, onsite and online, your sustainability achievements.
  • Provide staff with access to green space at work, join our NHS Forest Conference 2023, request a free tree bundle to be planted from November 2023 to March 2024, and consider signing up to our growing network of NHS Forest sites.

As a Trust/Board: 

  • Adopt and influence sustainability practices within your trust/board. Advocate for the implementation of sustainable practices: improve energy efficiency, have a recycling scheme and a clean air framework, tackle food waste, support more sustainable travel for patients and staff, and reduce water consumption.
  • Make a commitment to sustainability by having a clear Green Plan.
  • Build the workforce’s knowledge about sustainability and the NHS net zero ambitions. CSH offers board level net zero leadership training as well as block booking discounts for organisations who wish to purchase places for staff to access our short courses in sustainability, health and healthcare. 
  • Provide your teams with the tools and resources they need to feel empowered to implement solutions and measure impact. Allow them to provide feedback and recommendations using a suggestion box.
  • Create a Sustainability Scholarship in your trust/board for a health professional to work on a sustainability project over the course of a year with support from CSH.
  • Run a Green Ward Competition to transform healthcare by cutting carbon, improving patient care & staff experience and saving money.