Mental health trust pledges toreduce carbon emissions to zero

Date: Friday 25th September 2020

CUMBRIA, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), marked NHS Sustainability Day on Thursday by committing to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by 2040.

Through its new Climate Health sustainability programme, the mental health and disability services provider is developing a comprehensive plan to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by 2040, minimise waste, develop sustainable models of care and maximise the use of green spaces on its sites to support therapeutic activities and enhance biodiversity.

Anna Foster, deputy director of commissioning and quality assurance and lead for sustainability at CNTW, said: “The NHS overall is estimated to be responsible for around five per cent of all UK carbon emissions and five per cent of all journeys on UK roads are estimated to be healthcare-related. In 2018-19, the carbon footprint of our trust was equivalent to around 26,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

“The trust has already taken some steps to reduce waste and lower emissions, but we have big plans to come.

“We are building a network of staff to share ideas and develop local action plans, and this engagement will also be extended to gather input from people who use our services.”

In April, the trust switched to purchasing 100 per cent renewable energy, and recently its pharmacy staff in Newcastle became trailblazers within the organisation when they switched to using an electric vehicle as their pool car.

The trust is also striving to increase the range of vegetarian and vegan options in its catering provision, remove single-use plastics from cafes and canteens within six months, source more catering supplies from local food producers, and review ways to encourage more cycling, including better cycle parking provision and clearly mapped cycle routes between sites.

Trust staff and service users also planted several new trees around hospital grounds on NHS Sustainability Day, with plans to plant more in the autumn. They also took part in interactive virtual sessions to explore how it can become more sustainable.

Ms Foster added: “Though the COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge challenge for our organisation and the people we support, in many ways it has helped us to become much more ambitious about what changes we can achieve.

“The pandemic has really accelerated the adoption of technology such as Microsoft Teams across our organisation, enabling us to move many teams to remote- or home-working to ensure continued support and treatment for people through telephone and video-call contact.

“In an organisation which spans a huge area, from Whitehaven to Newcastle up to Berwick and down to Sunderland, many staff have found the time and travel saved by virtually meeting colleagues and teams a revelation.

“During the height of the lockdown restrictions, the reduction we saw in carbon emissions was the equivalent of planting 118 trees.

“We know the importance of face-to-face, in-person contact for many of our service users living in the community, and most of our teams have been able to return to offering this using the appropriate PPE and safety precautions.

“During the pandemic, we have had to find new virtual ways of working, which means we are now able to offer people a greater choice of consultation and treatment options to suit their needs while also reducing our emissions.”