A three-year ‘Green Plan’ to help the NHS deliver on its goals of net zero emissions by 2040 and mitigate the impacts of climate change has today been published by NHS Property Services (NHSPS).
The first-of-its-kind plan forms part of the NHSPS’ wider ‘Delivering a Greener NHS’ program and will see the estate manager of 3,000 NHS buildings utilise a raft of green technologies, such as heat pumps and solar panels, to generate electricity and heat to serve the buildings and slash reliance on fossil fuels.
A package of targets and measures detailed in the three-year plan include new long-term, sustainable models of care including a flagship social prescribing program as well as plans to transform vacant and underutilized space on the NHS estate into affordable, or free-of -charge, facilities for community groups.
The NHS will also transition service vans and company lease cars to ultra-low emission vehicles, while also developing a new electric vehicle (EV) strategy that will feature a vehicle charging point map and a full plan for transitioning the service’s entire fleet to zero emission models.
In addition, NHSPS will begin decarbonisation feasibility studies for all end-of-life gas or oil-fired heating systems, as well as establishing a calculation tool that would incorporate carbon emissions into financial calculations so as to allow regional teams to access capital finance for energy and environment projects in their regions. “This means that many more projects can run simultaneously across the estate than ever before,” NHSPS said.
“The relationship between our health and our environment are inherently linked. It is vital that sustainability values are embedded in everything the NHS does, so that together we can improve the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve,” said Cameron Hawkins, head of energy and environment for NHSPS. “We have already made tremendous progress in decarbonising the NHS Estate, and this bold, ambitious Green Plan will build on those successes and take our Greener NHS ambition to the next level. As owners of a large part of the NHS estate, we are in the unique position where we can make a substantial contribution to NHS England’s 2040 net zero targets.”
The publication of the NHSPS’s Green Plan follows a recent commitment by all four UK health services to become net zero by 2050 through the COP26 Health Programme, aligning with the government’s ambition set out in its ‘Build Back Greener’ strategy.
The new plan also highlights how later this year NHSPS open its first net zero health facility in England. The Devizes Health Center in Wiltshire will utilise a range of green technologies to slash its reliance on fossil fuels and reduce long term energy bills.
Since 2019, NHSPS has decreased its carbon footprint by 30 per cent and saved the NHS £23m in associated costs with the saved money being reinvested back into the NHS. The organization has also shifted to 100 per cent renewable electricity and established a strategy to minimise waste to landfill, with more than 99 per cent now being diverted from landfill.
In March, research by Philips and the University of Exeter Center for Circular Economy, called for immediate action and urgent system change from both the NHS and its suppliers if its net zero commitment is to be met. The report, titled Accelerating the transition towards a net zero NHScalls for a widescale shift towards circular economy practices across the NHS and its suppliers in order to reach net zero and improve patient care.
However, the latest developments come amidst speculation that a key source of funding for NHS green projects could be cut, following reports the government was considering raiding the budget of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which helps fund energy efficiency upgrades for domestic buildings, to pay for an expansion of domestic energy efficiency schemes.
Yesterday an alliance of leading businesses, NGOs, and charities wrote to the government urging it to protect the budget of existing energy efficiency schemes and identify alternative sources of funding so as to expand domestic schemes.