NHS Property Services pledges all-electric fleet on road to net-zero by 2040

Image: NHSPS

The commitments form part of a new ‘Green Plan’ from the Government-owned company, which outlines steps to be taken before the end of the 2024-25 financial year to support the NHS’s transition to net-zero emissions by 2040. The NHS has reduced its emissions by 3% on average each year since 2010, but that rate will need to reach 8% to achieve the long-term climate target.

Published on Wednesday (22 June), the Green Plan from NHS Property Services (NHSPS) includes a commitment to transition its 800 service vehicles and 130 company cars to electric. The organisation is in the process of developing an EV strategy, detailing plans for installing vehicle charging points and for procuring new vehicles. This will be published within the Green Plan period. Also planned is a review of the staff travel policy, to better encourage other lower-emission methods of transportation like walking, cycling, car-sharing and using public transport.

These moves are happening in tandem with trials of zero-emission ambulances by NHS England itself, which began last year.

Other key commitments from NHSPS include using technology to help mitigate paper use and provide web-based patient services; creating biodiverse outdoor spaces; ensuring the efficient use of indoor spaces, and promoting low-carbon approaches to construction and minor works.

There are no new major targets on waste and renewables. NHSPS has achieved a 99% diversion rate from landfill for waste and switched to 100% renewable electricity. Nonetheless, the Green Plan document states that plans are in place to continue optimising waste and energy management.

One other new item on the Green Plan is the creation of dedicated climate adaptation and biodiversity plans, to ensure that these topics become “key elements” of NHSPS’s approach to estates and facilities management. These plans will be published within two years and will set a long-term, joined-up vision to accelerate work already underway on various distributed projects.

Staff engagement for a growing team

NHSPS has stated that while it has reduced its Scope 1 (direct) and 2 (power-related) emissions by 30% since 2019, more action is needed – which will need to also cover Scope 3 (indirect) emissions.

To oversee this action, it will need to recruit several regional energy and environment managers. They will be tasked with designing and delivering region-specific plans for decarbonisation, improving climate adaptation and boosting biodiversity. NHSPS will also be selecting a non-executive director to sponsor the Plan at the board and the executive level, who will be responsible for this along with chief operating officer Trish Stephenson.

The plan notably includes a commitment to ensure that all staff “understand their role in targeting net-zero carbon and can access appropriate information [to carry this out]”. Surveys will be carried out to benchmark staff awareness of the net-zero target and NHSPS’s Greener NHS programme more widely, with the results set to inform future employee training, education and communications approaches.

NHSPS’s head of energy and environment Cameron Hawkins said:  “The relationship between our health and our environment are inherently linked. It is vital that sustainability values are embedded in everything the NHS does, so that together we can improve the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve.”

To Hawkins’ point, climate scientists estimate that 3.3 billion people are already acutely vulnerable to the climate crisis, with their health and wellbeing and/or livelihoods at risk.

A coalition of more than 220 medical, nursing and public health journals simultaneously published an ‘emergency editorial’ late last year, outlining the potential impacts of the twin climate and nature crises on human health. Healthcare professionals have subsequently been in attendance at COP26 and at various environmental protests in the UK, including campaigns outside Downing Street on 11 June compelling Ministers to end support for new fossil fuel projects.

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