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Delivering a Greener NHS: our journey so far and what's next

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Delivering a Greener NHS: our journey so far and what's next

With 2023 set to be the hottest year on record, leaders from almost 200 countries are meeting in Dubai this week for the 28th United Nations Climate Summit, also known as COP28. It's hoped the summit will help keep alive the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5°C, determined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

But governments aren’t the only ones who can make a difference. Businesses and organisations also have a responsibility to minimise their environmental impact, including NHSPS.

In 2022, we made a commitment to achieve net zero carbon by 2040. This means we’ll eliminate or offset the carbon emissions that we produce directly or indirectly by that date. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the achievements and challenges that we’ve faced so far in our journey towards net zero.

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Reducing our carbon emissions

In 2022/23, our emissions reduced by 18%, with 12% of this coming from our own actions and 6% from the impact of reducing electricity grid emissions.

While that’s a great achievement, we’re always working to reduce our emissions.

To do this, we’ve involved teams across NHSPS in finding and implementing solutions that are good for the environment and our customers. We’ve also changed the way we approve new capital projects to make sure we consider our environmental impact in all new capital works.

This year alone, we’ve invested over £10 million in making the estate more sustainable and energy efficient, including:

  • Replacing old boilers with low-carbon alternatives that use less energy and produce less emissions.
  • Installing LED lights that are more efficient and last longer than traditional ones.
  • Upgrading our Building Management System, which controls the heating, ventilation and air conditioning of our buildings. Not only does this help optimise energy use, but it also creates a more comfortable environment for customers and patients.

Unfortunately, reducing emissions is not always as simple as it sounds. Many external factors affect how much carbon emissions we emit.

This year, the electricity grid emissions factor increased by 7% (bucking a 10-year trend of reducing electricity emissions factors) due to more natural gas being used for electricity generation post-pandemic. That’s why we're currently exploring multi-year targets as well as improving our understanding of emissions across the estate.

Preparing for the impacts of climate change

Climate change is already affecting our planet and these effects will become increasingly more visible. In 2022/23, we carried out a climate-related risk assessment using cutting-edge climate science technology. The assessment showed that some of our sites could be at risk of flooding and overheating by 2050. To make sure customers can continue to deliver excellent patient care, we’ve created a Climate Adaptation Strategy to make our sites more resilient and adaptable.

A key part of this strategy is to create more awareness amongst our colleagues and customers about the impacts of climate change. We’ve created a climate adaptation working group, where colleagues from different departments can discuss how climate adaptation plans might impact their work. Our team has also been working on plans for the sites that are most at risk.

Better use of data for estate management

We know that our customers want more data and insights, so we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to make this happen. But to give meaningful insights, we need to make sure we have the foundations first. That’s why we’ve been working on two key data projects which will help manage our estate more effectively:

  • The first project is the adoption of an energy management platform. This platform now hosts all our energy billing, consumption, and smart meter data in one place. This allows us to identify anomalies in charges, track missing invoices and identify gaps in utility data, providing our customers with a better billing experience.
  • The second project is the creation of a single source of data for the decarbonisation and energy efficiency interventions at our sites. This will help us to report our carbon emissions more accurately and consistently.

Both these initiatives have taken up time and resources which has been difficult to balance against the expectation of reducing carbon emissions. However, I feel it's an essential piece of our Green Plan that will pay off in the long run. Having a solid platform will enable our customers to access any type of information they need, helping us achieve net zero together.

3. Embracing flexible working

In the last few years, the team has grown rapidly to respond to the growing demand from customers and the ambitious targets we’ve set for ourselves. This has been an exciting journey, but also a challenging one, since our team members are located all over England.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we've learned to embrace the benefits of working remotely, such as having more control over our work and personal schedules. As a working parent, I enjoy the flexibility that NHSPS's Smarter Working Policy provides. Recent research has also shown that working from home can cut your carbon footprint – an added benefit!