NHS revamp offers £400m windfall and vast emissions reductions
A new online tool could save the NHS more than £400m while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions by one million tonnes each year by 2020 and providing health benefits to patients, research from a new report has suggested.
The Securing Healthy Returns report, made in collaboration between NHS England and Public Health England, has suggested that embedding new behaviour change mechanisms – and encouraging these new behaviours through an online tool – could create a £414m windfall for the NHS alongside the wholesale health and carbon improvements.
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NHS’s director of the Sustainable Development Unit David Pencheon said: “We know that the NHS and health sector is facing its greatest financial challenge, and we need to seize every opportunity to realise savings and efficiencies.
“But we also know that seeking financial savings without considering the long term social and environmental implications can be dangerously short sighted in terms of health protection and improvement.
“This report and supporting resources help organisations to identify opportunities that can save money now and have a positive environmental effect – which will save money and improve health, now and in the future. We don’t have to choose between saving money and protecting the environment – we can make decisions that will do both as well as improve people’s health.”
Using 35 areas based on real life examples, the report noted the opportunities that the NHS could deliver by embracing sustainable methods. Around £3m could be saved by encouraging staff to switch to low-carbon transport commutes by using bikes. A further £37.5m could also be saved by improving patient adherence to prescriptions to cut back on over-prescribing.
By turning to Combined heat and power (CHP) systems, the report notes that the NHS would be able to generate financial savings on more than £26m as well gaining access to low-carbon heat and electricity which would lower annual emissions by 3,750 tonnes.
Prescribing non-propellant inhalers for asthma would provide the biggest carbon reductions for the NHS, saving around 341,000 tonnes in emissions by 2020, while a furniture re-use scheme, which the NHS is already exploring with the Warp-It enterprise, would also produce carbon savings of 175,000 tonnes.
All of the recommendations listed in the report would provide crucial stepping stones to allow the NHS to achieve the £22bn energy efficiency savings target outlined in the Five Year Forward View, a future roadmap model that establishes new models of care for the NHS.
The NHS has already invested £540m in new technologies aimed at lowering energy use over the last eight years. LED lighting, insulations and control systems have all created £1.85bn in savings as well as reducing the NHS’s energy bill by £190m in 2016.
The report, which acts as a follow up to the Carter review which identified the areas that the NHS should target to deliver economic and environmental benefits worth £1.3bn, has urged hospital and healthcare establishments to implement the “Your carbon cost benefit curve” tool into day-to-day operations.
The benefits tool, made alongside energy efficiency verification specialists EEVS and sustainability software vendor Trakeo, enables users to enter details such as staff numbers, floor space and consistent operations in order to pool resources from “selected interventions” that can be introduced to lower carbon emissions and improve financial savings.
Commenting on the report EEVS’s commercial manager Ian Jeffries said: “As well as shining a light on the scale of the cost and carbon saving opportunity within the sector, our analysis shows that the business case for investing in the Healthy Returns opportunities is compelling.
“I have no doubt that the tool will be a hugely valuable resource for the sector, but the real measure of success will be the extent to which its on-paper savings are converted into real, tangible gains.
“We are now keen to support organisations within the sector to do just that; above all, helping to ensure that these investments really do deliver the real-life cost savings and carbon abatement anticipated at the outset.”
Trust the movement
As the NHS pushes to lower energy bills, a host of Trust sites have begun implementing low-carbon measures to reduce emissions and generate economic savings.
Asset management firm Aviva Investors announced a new £15.4m commitment - partly funded by the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) - to create a new energy efficiency programme and centre at NHS Tayside in Dundee, which will provide 90% of the power and 100% of the heat in the hospital.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk, makes use of renewable electricity generated on-site through a wind turbine installed by green energy supplier Ecotricity; while Salford Royal Hospital in Greater Manchester is expected to slash £1.9m from its annual energy bill thanks to a new efficiency programme part-funded by the Green Investment Bank (GIB).