CSH contributed to the new Green Surgery Report setting the groundwork for reducing the carbon footprint of surgical care

Monday, 20 November, 2023

What is the Green Surgery Report?

The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare is pleased to announce our involvement in the publication of a new historic report that lays the framework for decreasing the carbon footprint of surgical care. Green Surgery is the first detailed account of how to reduce the environmental impact of surgical care while maintaining high quality patient care and potentially saving the NHS money.

“We are developing a growing body of research that provides an evidence-based strategy for how we can reduce the environmental impact of surgical care. Now it is time to translate that research into real-world action, and to drive the transition to sustainable models of high quality patient care. We must build on win-wins, where there are co-benefits for patients, the environment, and the public purse.” - Dr Chantelle Rizan, Academic Chair and a leading author on the report and CSH Sustainable Surgery Fellow 2018-2021

The report contains specific recommendations for everyone involved in surgical care, including colleges, associations and societies, the NHS, policymakers, clinicians, and patients. It also shows a number of successful sustainable measures that have already been put in place.

Why is it important?

Climate change is currently the greatest threat to human health. The healthcare sector accounts for 4.4% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

Surgical care alone accounts for around 5.7 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in the UK each year, which is similar to the emissions from heat, power, transportation, and trash from 700,000 UK homes. Anaesthetic gases, energy, and single-use goods are all carbon hotspots in theatres.

Reducing these numbers, particularly the emissions created during surgery, would be a big step towards the NHS's goal of being net zero by 2045. The report shows that solutions are available and in many situations, they might result in better options for patients while costing the NHS less.

Reducing and reusing surgical products, operating room shutdown checklists to save energy when they are not in use, switching to less harmful anaesthetics, and surgeons and patients working together to optimise treatment are all highlighted as ways to reduce carbon emissions.

CSH contribution

This project required extensive input and participation from individuals and organisations working throughout the surgical care pathway. Dr. Frances Mortimer, CSH Medical Director, Catherine Floyd, previous CSH Clinical Specialties Lead, and Ingeborg Steinbach, CSH Finance Director and Lead Sustainability Analyst, along with friends, colleagues, and fellows, worked on this project.

We drew on our years of experience in sustainable healthcare and carbon footprinting, and we added to the wealth of examples by providing case studies form across our portfolio.

“At a time of planetary environmental crisis, we can find hope through action. This report identifies evidence-based, practical actions for all members of the surgical team to reduce surgery's environmental harms while safeguarding or improving care for patients. The case studies throughout the report provide inspiring examples of what can be achieved by front-line staff working together with patients and colleagues. » - Dr Frances Mortimer, Medical Director of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare and co-creator of the Green Surgery Challenge

The Green Surgery study is the result of a two-year effort to reduce the environmental effect of surgical care headed by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC), Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH). The Health Foundation provided funding for the investigation. The project was carried out under the supervision of a committee comprised of multiple stakeholders participating in every stage of the surgical care pathway.

Read the full report here.