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Addressing the Health Impact of Climate Change

28 Oct 2021

As world leaders arrive in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow is proactively working to ensure the voice of the healthcare workforce is heard in the need for action on climate change to protect health.

As world leaders arrive in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow is proactively working to ensure the voice of the healthcare workforce is heard in the need for action on climate change to protect health.

In September, we joined with more than 220 international health journals, including the BMJ, Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, National Medical Journal of India, Chinese Science Bulletin and many others from every continent to publish an editorial that set out the concerns of the health community and outlined their key asks to reduce air pollution and the transfer of funds from high income to low income countries to achieve our global targets.

We have added our signature to an open letter which has been signed by more than 450 organisations representing about 45 million health professionals around the world.  The letter, which will be delivered to the 197 government leaders and national delegations at COP26, warns that the climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity, and calls on world leaders to deliver on climate action.

Today, we bring together more than 800 individuals to a webinar focusing on Climate Change and Health which explores both international and local challenges and solutions. Speakers include representatives from the WHO, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Glasgow City Council, and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. We will also announce the winners of our trainee climate change competition which features proposals on an intervention or quality improvement project to improve sustainable working within the NHS.

This will be followed on 11 November with another webinar, this time focusing on Sustainability in Dentistry which focuses on the effects that dentistry has on our environment and how we as a profession can make positive change.

During COP26, we will host a network dinner in partnership with the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, which brings together health and policy leaders with a common interest in leadership and action on climate change and our health service. The event will feature presentations from UKHACC Ambassador, Dame Parveen Kumar and Director of Greener NHS, Nick Watts.

Our climate and health policy group, which involves cross college representation from our faculties, Lay Advisory Board, and committees, have developed College policy positions on two key areas that we believe are critical to addressing both the health impact of climate change and the impact of our health service on climate change.

The first – a sustainable food system – outlines what we believe governments can do to ensure our food system is healthy for both our planet and ourselves. We must create a system that can feed us all in a sustainable and health promoting way. This will require radical steps to review, redesign and implement policies and support the food system in its entirety.

The second – a sustainable health service – outlines what we believe governments and individuals do to decarbonise our health service. This includes the need to integrate climate impact into all NHS and healthcare recovery plans with a clear roadmap and monitoring to achieve net zero.

As we look to the future of our College, our focus is on a delivery model that strikes a good balance between online and face to face working. This approach takes into consideration our carbon footprint, and how we can ensure our College plays its part in achieving a net zero target. We recently completed an assessment of our current carbon footprint including baseline emissions from our office spaces, business travel, and indirect emissions such as commuting, investments and procurement. We have committed to develop a net zero roadmap with realistic carbon reductions to achieve net zero by 2050 and a reduction of 40% by 2030.

More information about our work on climate change and sustainability can be found here.

Category: Climate Change

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Key priority areas

Workforce Recovery and Transformation
Health services in many parts of the world are over-stretched due to workforce shortages, rising demand for services and difficulties in retaining staff.
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A healthy healthcare workforce is essential for patient care. When the workforce is exhausted, experiencing burnout, and struggling to balance their work and personal lives, it impacts on everyone.
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Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
We are committed to standing up for equality, diversity and inclusion. We want our College to reflect the diversity in the NHS workforce and in the patients that we care for.
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Climate Change and Sustainability
Climate change has caused great harm to our planet and warnings of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding will all place a significant burden on our health outcomes.
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Health Inequalities
The health inequalities in our society have been both highlighted and exacerbated by the covid pandemic. There is a need to do things differently.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the lives of healthcare professionals, and the urgent need to learn whilemfocusing on delivering the best care for our patients has been an enormous challenge.
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