Healthcare and sustainability are issues that are fundamental interlinked. A 2015 Lancet Commission report warns that climate change is the largest global health threat of the 21st century and already outdoor air pollution is contributing to an estimated 40,000 early deaths in the UK each year. By tackling the root causes of climate change, air pollution and working to improve environmental sustainability in healthcare, the NHS has the opportunity to support a healthier population for generations to come.
Building on our work in hospital trusts, NUS developed Green Impact for Health in partnership with the University of Bristol and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare in 2015. The simple to use online toolkit guides and recognises GP surgery’s sustainability efforts across social, environmental and economic criteria.
In the 70th year of the NHS and second year of the nationwide programme we are proud to say we had 70 practices register for the programme, with 16 achieving awards. This year we engaged over 820 staff members who completed 542 actions which saved at least 37,700kg of carbon.
Engaging in sustainability in healthcare enables us to provide opportunities for students to develop an understanding of complex topics and the skills to implement change. We worked with the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare and the University of Bristol to offer an elective module to second year medical students. Alongside lectures on theory, the students visited Feed Bristol Avon Wildlife Trust’s ‘Wellbeing self-care’ course to see how nature can be used as a form of ‘green prescribing’ for illness prevention or treatment. They then undertook placements to develop their own Green Impact projects in primary and secondary care. Through Green Impact for Health we also trained 8 students to conduct audits of the participating practices.
The overall Green Impact for Health winners this year were Frome Medical Practice who achieved a Gold Award and completed 49 actions, from preventing pharmaceutical waste to supporting staff development and collaboration through shared sustainability lunches. The practice is one leading the way in social prescribing, having launched the Compassionate Frome project in 2013.
Karen Creffield, Practice Manager says:
“The Green Impact Award has been a great vehicle to help make some really positive changes in the practice, alongside highlighting and supporting the work we had already committed to through our Health Connectors project and Frome Model of Enhanced Primary Care
Earlier this year we reviewed our purpose, vision and values. Sustainability is one of our 3 core values together with responsibility and learning. The Green Impact Award has really enabled us to work together as a team to really demonstrate these values in action.
Working with the local community has been an important part of the progress we have made. Joining Refill Frome is one really good example of this. In April we introduced a community water refill station in the practice. We were really proud to be one of the first adopters of the scheme, which aims to help cut down on single plastic cup and bottle use. The refill station made possible through staff fundraising, and with support of "one green bottle" we also bought over 130 stainless steel bottles for all our staff. The feedback from staff has been really appreciative, as many are also now drinking more water too.”
This year’s Gold award-winners were:
Those awarded Silver were:
Those awarded Bronze were:
And those Working Towards Award:
Green Impact for Health will reopen in October 2018 to support further positive change within primary care.