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NHS aims to slash carbon footprint

Hospitals, medical centres and surgeries could soon be forced to review their heating and ventilation strategies on an annual basis as the National Health Service (NHS) looks to cut its carbon footprint.

The NHS has launched a consultation on its Carbon Reduction Strategy which will aim to slash emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 in all areas including building energy use, transport and procurement.

The draft strategy prepared by the NHS Sustainable Development Unit says: “The NHS in England is responsible for more than 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) each year from heating and lighting its buildings, powering its equipment, procuring goods and services, sending waste to landfill and as a result of patient, staff and visitor travel.

“This is 30 per cent of total public sector emissions in England and 3.2 per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions in England.

“It is the responsibility of everybody in, and involved with the NHS to reduce this level of carbon emissions to help avoid the worst effects of climate change.

“The NHS above all organisations, should lead the way in tackling climate change, and be the best exemplar of good practice for a major national public sector organisation.”

The NHS spends £429 million pounds on electricity and heating every year and this equates to 4MtCO2 emissions – 22 per cent of the total emissions of the NHS in England.

David Nicholson, NHS chief executive, said:  'The nature and the scale of our business in the NHS means we have a responsibility - as well as a unique opportunity - to play a leading role in the climate change agenda for the benefit of patients and the public.

'It is up to us to challenge ourselves, so the scale of our ambition to tackle carbon emissions matches the scale of our opportunity. This consultation is an important next step on that journey.

Launching the strategy at Kentish Town Integrated Health Centre in London, Health Minister Ivan Lewis said: 'Climate change is one of the greatest threats to our health and well-being.

'As part of our commitment to sustainable development we will work with the NHS to enable organisations to reduce their carbon footprints.

'Climate change is happening on our watch - it will be our legacy. We must all work together to tackle this global problem.'

Proposals include forcing all NHS bodies to have a Carbon Management Strategy by 2009 and demanding organisations report annually on their sustainable development progress.