Welcome to Cathy, Environmentally Sustainable Anaesthesia Fellow

Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

CSH is delighted to welcome Dr. Cathy Lawson as the first Environmentally Sustainable Anaesthesia Fellow.

Cathy is an anaesthetic and intensive care medicine trainee in the North East. Her interest in environmental sustainability took off when she was elected as a member of the Group of Anaesthetists in Training (GAT) committee at the Association of Anaesthetists (AoA). Cathy sat on the AoA Environmental Task Group for three years, and through this learnt about how the anaesthetic speciality impacts on the environment and sustainability. 

Cathy is the first to take up what we hope will become annual Fellowships in Environmentally Sustainable Anaesthesia, which have been created through collaboration between the AoA, CSH and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NUTH, where Cathy will spend 50% of her time on clinical duties and 50% on sustainability). 

Anaesthetics is a particularly important area for improving the sustainability of healthcare because of the impact of anaesthetic vapours on climate change. Nitrous oxide and anaesthetic vapours together make up 2.5% of the NHS carbon footprint and the NHS Long Term Plan promises a reduction of 2% of the NHS carbon footprint “through transformation of anaesthetic practice”.

This goal is ambitious, but what makes it achievable is that anaesthetists already have a range of clinically effective alternatives to choose from, including:

  • intravenous anaesthesia as an alternative to inhalation agents
  • greater use of regional or local nerve blocks, which allow patients to be operated on while awake
  • discontinuing routine use of nitrous oxide alongside other gases (many anaesthetists have already done this)
  • preferential use of sevoflurane over other gases, especially desflurane (which is especially damaging).

Over the coming year we look forward to working with Cathy, the AoA, NUTH, the NHS Sustainable Development Unit and others to create widespread recognition of the role of anaesthetists in reducing climate change emissions, and to support anaesthetic departments and individual anaesthetists to change practice. 

People can keep in touch and connect with others working to improve the environmental impact of surgery and anaesthesia through the Sustainable Operating Theatres network.