Working towards a ‘Greener NHS’ – major new initiative

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As we all know climate change poses a major threat to our health as well as our planet – and its accelerating.  On 25 Jan 2020 NHS Chief Sir Simon Stevens announced the launch of the ‘For a greener NHS’ programme, to mobilise the 1.3 million staff across the service to take action. The aim is to build on the great work already being done by trusts throughout the UK and share ideas to help reduce the impact on public health, save money and eventually go ‘net carbon zero’.

Whilst the NHS is already a world leader in sustainability, as the biggest employer and comprising nearly a tenth of the UK economy, it is both part of the problem and part of the solution.  The health and care system in England is responsible for an estimated 4-5% of the country’s carbon footprint, with transporting NHS products and services accounting for more than half that.  Air pollution, as we know, is linked to killer conditions such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, and a group of 175 doctors recently warned it is also directly adding to the current pressures in A&E departments.

The NHS is currently the only major health system in the world to tackle climate change as a whole and the success of ‘For a greener NHS’ will require the support of NHS staff ‘and suppliers’across the country.

NHS Sustainability Focus Areas 

Sustainability is an all-encompassing arena and the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) has four key target areas for reducing the NHS carbon footprint which include:  water, waste, air pollution and carbon emissions.  With such a big task we can only look to our own area of operation to see where savings can be achieved.  Substantial work is already underway and delivering results – such as a carbon emissions reduction of 18.5% between 2007 and 2017, and a water footprint reduction of 21% between 2010 and 2017 and more significantly an 85% reduction of provider waste going into landfill.  Whilst this is a good start, ‘net carbon zero’ is an aggressive challenge.

Individual case studies are emerging, for example, Great Ormond Street Hospital’s reduction of single use plastic gloves which saved 21 tonnes of plastic and £90,000 and, Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust who partnered with Lexmark to help deliver their digital ambitions. They were printing too much, had too many printers and the whole process was inefficient. With Lexmark Smart Managed Print Services, they streamlined operational efficiencies, rationalised their printer estate from 325 to 167, promoted sustainability, and delivered a massive £200,000 per year savings.

Aintree University Hospital’s move to a paper-lite environment for all its business processes is another excellent example of how, working with a committed sustainability supplier, can have a major impact – not only on the efficiency savings throughout the trust but ultimately on the environment.  The trust reduced its 1300 print device population by 70%, streamlined business processes, improved information security and aims to reduce its paper usage by 30%+.

Consumables usage across the trust is also substantially reduced but perhaps more important is the environmental impact of the Lexmark Cartridge Collection Programme (LCCP). Lexmark runs a zero-landfill policy, so the materials extracted during the reclamation process, including plastics, various metals and toner, are reused in packaging and parts to further protect our natural resources. In the last year Aintree recycled 659 units equivalent to 828 kg of materials recovered, which is equal to 2,889 kg of CO2 savings or 1,225 litres of petrol use avoided. And this is just one trust!

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the Circular Economy

We are only now learning the lessons of our throw-away mentality of the last few decades.  Now what happens to our waste is a major issue for us all.  An image of the plastic in our oceans is a stark reminder of that.  Now it is the corporate social responsibility of each organisation to ensure our products can be recycled and our waste dealt with, so our children can have a healthy future.  The circular economy, where we transform the way we consume and dispose of goods, is a vital for all our futures.

In looking to rise to the challenge of a ‘Greener NHS’ we need to select partners who are equally committed and have the credentials to help. Lexmark is a circular economy leader  and actively participates by designing printer cartridges that stay in use longer, incorporate recycled materials and protect natural resources by reducing waste.  They also work with other partners on remanufacturing, product take-back and refurbishment. And, are one of 70 companies world-wide to pledge to use more recycled plastics. In 2018, LCCP collected 8,145 metric tons of returned cartridges from customers.  97% of materials reclaimed from these cartridges was reused or recycled. Energy was generated from the remaining 3% of toner waste collected. Even the excess toner has now been developed into TonerPave, an asphalt additive for paving roads.

Digital Transformation – making the move

Managing the move to fully digital technologies can be complex and the reality on the ground can be far from the vision.  If you wish to manage your move to a paperless or paper-lite environment, and simplify the intersection between paper and digital, you can contact me directly:

About Lexmark

Working in the healthcare market for over 25 years, Lexmark creates innovative imaging solutions and technologies that help customers worldwide print, secure and manage information with ease, efficiency and unmatched value. Combining innovative technologies with deep industry expertise, Lexmark simplifies the complex intersection of digital and printed information in retail, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, education, government and more.


Date: March 10, 2020

Author: Louise Wall

Source: LinkedIn