The NHS in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly yesterday (Tuesday 6 October) officially declared a ‘Climate Emergency’.
The declaration made by NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) and Cornwall Partnership Foundation NHS Trust (CFT), sees the NHS join forces with Cornwall Council in a commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
Representatives across health and care made the promise at the Cornwall Climate Health Skills Lab event, which was previously postponed from March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In declaring a ‘Climate Change’ emergency, the NHS recognises the threat faced to public health as a result of global warming and seizes some of the opportunities to lead and work a more sustainable life that has been presented during the pandemic.
Helen Charlesworth-May, NHS Kernow’s accountable officer/strategic director for public health and care for Cornwall Council, said: “Climate change is something that’s very important to us. People across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and our staff across health and care can all play a big part in reducing the carbon footprint of our services and buildings where healthcare is provided."
Currently the NHS accounts for approximately 4% of all UK carbon emissions. NHS England and NHS Improvement has set out plans to address that percentage, stating it wants the NHS to become the “world’s first carbon net zero national health system.”
Dr Tamsyn Anderson, interim joint medical director for CFT, said: “We have already started taking steps to reach our ultimate goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
“Both CFT and RCHT have reduced their carbon emissions in recent years by investing in better buildings, infrastructure and waste management and CFT has a made a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions and waste usage since 2013/14. The Trusts share onsite energy generation systems and are part of a national trial into using reusable face masks and clinical gowns. However, there is much more to do.”
Thom Lafferty, director of strategy and performance at RCHT, said: “The need to address climate change has unified all health commissioners and providers in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
“We have learnt, through our response to the COVID-19 pandemic that we are stronger together and we are all inspired by this. We want everyone to work together make sure that sustainability is at the centre of health care in Cornwall.”
Other steps that have already been taken include
- Installing 70 additional cycle shelters and securing four electric vehicle charging points at RCHT.
- A recycling machine for face masks and surgical tray wraps.
- Piloting the reuse of anaesthetic gases
The two-day Cornwall Climate Health Skills Lab, which runs until Thursday 8 October, and provide colleagues from across the NHS an opportunity to start telling their organisations how things can be done differently to achieve the ambitious goal.
Dr Rob White, NHS Kernow Governing Body member, said: “We want to listen to the views of our colleagues and partners across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to develop a ‘Green Plan’ within six months. By working together I believe we can, here in Cornwall, achieve a net zero carbon emissions by 2030.”
The ambition is supported by RCHT, CFT and NHS Kernow’s boards and governing bodies.