A healthy NHS is a sustainable one, as pilot scheme proves

The NHS is the largest employer in Europe, while it is also the single largest purchaser of energy in England, having spent almost £600m on energy costs in 2011-12.

A healthy NHS is a sustainable one, as pilot scheme proves

Curbing these colossal bills through energy efficient behaviour could save the NHS overall an astounding £35m.

That is the findings of a behavioural change project, called Operation TLC, which has been piloted by a public-private-NGO partnership between Barts Health NHS Trust, GE, Skanska, and environmental charity Global Action Plan.

The energy efficiency scheme has already saved Barts Health NHS Trust, the largest Trust in the UK, £100,000 in energy bills, but it is not just about saving money.

The scheme makes perfect sense when you understand the obvious connection between the environment and health.

A healthy environment with less carbon emissions leads to a healthier society which leads to fewer patients and therefore less emissions and so on – the circularity of it is quite scintillating.

The scheme is also timely. We are only a few weeks away from the organisation's 65th anniversary and while it is a body often mired in controversy (the Care Commission Quality ‘cover up’ scandal immediately springs to mind), few really argue in general that free health care for all is anything but a British institution to be proud of. 

Many of the nuts and bolts that keep the NHS running need tightening and this is extremely difficult given the economic situation – and that is why cutting expenses is so critical at present.

Doing this while cutting carbon emissions and directly increasing the wellbeing of patients by improving their comfort, has got to be ideal.

And yes the methodology is simplistic; closing doors, turning off lights, keeping temperatures level - it is hardly brain surgery. However, that is also the beauty of it – keeping things simple means it is much easier to implement and win over busy employees.

I attended the official opening of the scheme this week at the suitably inspiring historic Great Hall at St Bartholomew’s hospital.

This was matched with suitably inspiring speeches, delivered by some impressive speakers such as, the founder and senior partner of charity Global Action Plan Trewin Restorick and the NHS Sustainable Development Unit director David Pencheon.

There is still a long way to go in implementing this behavioural change across the whole of the NHS, like Pencheon said: “Don’t underestimate the difficulty of selling the bleeding obvious.” (Not sure this was an intended pun)

Perhaps demonstrating this on the night, someone had ironically forgotten to turn down the revved up thermostat and the old hall was as hot as a ship’s boiler room.

This was a point that was ruthlessly made at the close of the question and answer session, but I think we can forgive this embarrassing oversight as a one off.

Amid much brow-mopping and collar-loosening, the general consensus around the Great Hall felt united: The benefits to be reaped are real and the scheme has the potential to serve as a stellar sustainability model for large organisations around the world.

Conor McGlone

Topics: Energy efficiency & low-carbon
Tags: | energy bills | Energy Efficiency | NHS | sustainable development
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