Launch of Green Health Wales: Raising Awareness, Building Will and Transferring Skill

Wednesday, 30 June, 2021

The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare was delighted to collaborate with Green Health Wales and the Bevan Commission to launch Green Health Wales: a day of raising awareness, building will and transferring skill.

Amarantha Fennell-Wells, the first Welsh Leadership Fellow in Sustainable Healthcare chaired the conference, which was set to inspire and equip people working in the health and social care sector in Wales with the tools and knowledge to transform health care to be climate smart and environmentally sustainable.

Session 1: Raising awareness

Dr Andrew Goodall, Director General for Health and Social Services and the NHS Wales Chief Executive, began session one, highlighting that “decarbonisation has a critical role to play in achieving a more resilient, healthier, and a globally responsible Wales”. In February, the Welsh Government set out its legal commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 with “ambitions to get there by 2030”. Dr Andrew Goodall emphasised “these are collective targets - we are all in this together. We need to start now, and focus on acting differently”, “I want to set us all a challenge: to act now”.

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, followed with a powerful talk on the urgency of the climate emergency and the need for immediate and substantial action: “I can see a public enquiry at some point in the future, held by children now who are questioning the actions of their ancestors.” Noting that there are already ‘250,000 additional deaths per year from climate change’, Sophie Howe highlighted the necessity of connections between the environment and health, and therefore the need for any public sector investments to consider ways to improve health and the environment.

Professor Hugh Montomery (Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at UCL and Director of the Centre for Human Health and Performance) painted a scary picture backed up by the scientific evidence. He noted that “we are seeing an exponential rise in extreme weather events” and showed how we are already entering the territory of positive feedback loops which reduce our chances of being able to reverse the climate change we have already set in motion.  He raised some alarming figures relating to Co2 and greenhouse emissions, noting that previous data had suggested the need to reduce emissions by 8% every year, however, going forward we would need to be vastly more aggressive than that. He explained that “we must take action now to save our own lives, those of our patients and those of our children. If we don’t, the outcome is going to be very grim. So, this is a call to arms and a call to action”.

Dr Frances Mortimer (Medical Director of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare) described her journey of leaving clinical medicine to join the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare. The process highlighted that sustainability should be “seen as core to the mission of healthcare. It is a core driver - it is a part of our professional identity”. She also noted that positive actions can be carried out by any role within the clinical medicine industry and that “one of the ways we can support this is creating training and roles within organisations”.

David Pencheon (founding Director of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit) delivered an inspiring talk, encouraging people to “turn urgency into agency”. He noted that “this is about people, this is a people journey. Everyone one of us has to have that important conversation with ourselves, what is our role? What is our contribution?” In doing so, he laid out one action we can all take - to ask leaders how we can help as a society, rather than criticise.

Helen Howson (Director of the Bevan Commission) encouraged viewers to “think radically and outside the box if we’re ever going to change things at the pace that we need to”. As a fan of Sir David Attenborough, she highlighted the message of being bold and courageous, taking the necessary steps towards a better future.

Session 2: Building will

Session 2 focused on building will, with green groups, clinical teams, estates services, and international collaborators showcasing their projects that are changing the way healthcare is operating across Wales.

Tom Downs, Yasmina Hamdaoui, Gwenllian Rhys from Ysbyty Gwynedd Green Group shared how they grew, and the projects and networking they have carried out “we encourage you all to reach out and find out what's happening where you are - do you have sustainability teams or environmental officers where you are?” “Sustainability really is on all of us. There’s work to be done right across the board… Sustainability can’t be placed on the shoulders on one individual, we need stakeholder engagement from all - collaboration is key.”

Following on from this Alex Morgan, Farzad Saadat from WEAN (Welsh Environmental Anaesthesia Network) shared their success from Project Drawdown (avoiding harmful anaesthetic gases) “reducing 175,000kge CO2 per month by avoiding harmful anaesthetic gases”. What started as a small project in Cardiff grew to positively impact other hospitals. Their inspiring project hopes to “influence similar approaches across the UK, the EU and the world”.

Dr Sarah Williams from the General Practice sector talked specifically about the need for GP’s (who “carry out 90% of all patient contacts within the NHS”) to prescribe with their carbon footprint in mind. She talked about various options that can be implemented into primary care such as a “greener inhaler” called Salamo, that could “half the carbon footprint” of a prescription.

Kathrin Thomas from the Wales and Africa Health links network noted that “it does not take much to overwhelm the healthcare system as we’ve seen with the Covid 19 pandemic”. She described links between healthcare and the climate crisis, highlighting that “the impact of climate change is going to be felt by some of the most vulnerable countries”. She suggested that digital learning and working online will be the way forward while also being the most equitable.

Session 3: Transferring skill

Following on from these talks, the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare led two interactive workshops, focusing on the theme of “transferring skill”.

Dr Olivia Bush, Clinical Programme Director at the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, facilitated a session for those who had a fledgling sustainable healthcare idea and seeking guidance on how to move forward. This workshop enabled attendees to explore how they can create, introduce and grow their sustainable idea, sharing tools such as sustainable quality improvement methods and resources.

“It was great to see over 40 health professionals attend the session, bringing their innovative sustainable healthcare ideas for the Wales health service.  Ideas included using the Sustainable Quality Improvement methodology in new projects, shaping decarbonisation toolkits in primary care, setting up conferences for different healthcare professional communities, sustainable healthcare education initiatives for medical students and switching from single-use to reusable equipment.  We very much look forward to hearing the projects progress.” - Dr Olivia Bush

Rachel Stancliffe, Founder and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare led an interactive workshop with executive leaders on the NHS Wales Decarbonisation Strategic Delivery Plan, providing a space to discuss ideas, planning, opportunities, barriers and methods to address the targets set out in the Plan.

“The executive leadership workshop demonstrated the strong commitment by key figures from Welsh Government, the Health Boards and Public Health Wales. It was fantastic to see leaders backing up the ambitious targets for decarbonisation set in the Strategic Plan with real resources and a willingness to collaborate across silos. I’m sure that the speed at which Wales is working will soon see it become a global exemplar.” - Rachel Stancliffe

Alongside these workshops, the Bevan Commission facilitated an ‘Adopt & Spread’ session focussing on the development and expansion of existing projects that have potential to be grown or initiated elsewhere in the healthcare services.

Next Steps for Green Health Wales:

Key actions and considerations from Green Health Wales were put forward to help clinicians and leaders in the Wales health service to transform care:

What could leadership do?:

  • Where is the Board level representation?
  • Where does SusHealth sit in governance?
  • Does workforce planning allow time and resources for this work?
  • What is being asked of Quality Improvement teams?
  • Can Health Boards support Fellows and Scholars with funding, dedicated time and mentoring?
  • How can you incentivise and reward sustainable projects?
  • If 62% of NHS Wales’ carbon footprint is caused by what we buy, can we influence what we buy?

Could you lead change?

  • Seek out or become a Green Health Wales representative for your Health Board or hospital
  • Find your specialty network on CSH Networks
  • Organise educational sessions for you team/department/specialty
  • Adapt Project Drawdown or other exemplar projects for your place of work
  • Take your ideas and progress with a SusQI project
  • Bevan Commission Exemplar application
  • Encourage and attend courses
  • Collect colleagues into a Green Group
    • Hospital
    • Health Board
    • Specialty

Actions for all:

Dr Frances Morimer, Medical Director at the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare said:

“It was exciting to be part of the launch and share the virtual stage with other inspiring speakers. The Green Health Wales network already has momentum, great resources and amazing people - I think we will see healthcare in Wales soon leading the way in becoming climate smart and environmentally sustainable.”

A video recording of the event will be available on the Green Health Wales YouTube account within the coming weeks, and resources from the day are published on