NHS staff urged to tackle climate “health emergency”

A MAJOR campaign has been launched to tackle the climate "health emergency" by pushing for a greener NHS.

A raft of measures has been announced by NHS England chief Sir Simon Stevens, including the formation of an expert panel that will set out plans to get the health service to "net zero".

The campaign has pledged to tackle climate change and air pollution, which has been linked to serious conditions like heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

It cited a recent study by Kings College London which showed that, on high pollution days across nine English cities, there are 673 additional out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and hospital admissions for stroke and asthma, with spikes in ambulance 999 call-outs. Last month a group of 175 doctors warned that air pollution is directly adding to current pressures in accident and emergency departments.

Sir Simon outlined three steps the NHS will take during 2020 to tackle the problem.

An expert panel will be set up, led by Dr Nick Watts, to "chart a practical route map this year to enable the NHS to get to 'net zero'". If successful, it would become the world’s first major health service to do so.

A new NHS standard contract will be proposed, calling on hospitals to reduce carbon use from buildings and estates, while switching to less polluting anaesthetic gases, better asthma inhalers, and encouraging more active travel for staff.

The health service will also launch its own grassroots campaign, For a greener NHS, which will support work already underway to help trusts and staff cut emissions, energy use and waste. This includes phasing out oil and coal boilers and increased use of LED lighting and electric vehicles. Staff and local NHS organisations are being encouraged to submit ideas to the expert panel, and provide evidence of steps they may have already taken within their own hospital.

Dr Nick Watts, chair of the new NHS Expert Panel, said: "Everyone who works in healthcare has a responsibility to take action on the health emergency posed by climate change, and I encourage all NHS staff to join the campaign to feed in their ideas and help drive this forward."

The expert panel are due to submit an interim report to NHS England in the summer with a final report due in the autumn, ahead of the COP26 international climate change conference in Glasgow in November.

A new website www.england.nhs.uk/greenernhs has been set up to support the initiative.

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