College joins UKHACC in response to NHS Scotland Climate Emergency and Sustainability Strategy

07 Mar 2022

Our College has sent a joint letter in response to the NHS Scotland Climate Emergency and Sustainability consultation. The response has been coordinated by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change and supported by our College, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties.

We write in response to the NHS Scotland Climate Emergency and Sustainability Strategy consultation. This response has been coordinated by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change and supported by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties.

We believe that climate change is currently the greatest threat to human health, and are acutely aware that our health service is a major contributing factor to Scotland’s carbon emissions. The climate crisis is already resulting in negative health impacts as a consequence of extreme weather, polluted air, food and water shortages, forced migration, and the aggravation of disease. We must do all we can to ensure the health and care services that people turn to during ill health, is not one of the major contributing factors to that ill health.

We strongly welcome the recognition of the clear link between climate change and public health in the proposed strategy. We agree that it is the right direction of travel for Scotland with the core ambition of delivery a sustainable service that enhances wellbeing and reduces health inequalities.

We welcome the commitment to reduce transport emissions linked to hospital and care services. Access to more localised services and better integration of care will be critical in achieving this. The link between the National Health Service and new National Care Service, along with sufficient workforce resource to deliver these services will be essential to enable success.

The supply chain and excessive consumption and waste of materials are of significant concern in terms of the NHS Scotland carbon footprint. The ambition to embrace a circular economy focused on reduce, re-use and recycle is welcome and may benefit from putting in place fixed terms on suppliers in what NHS Scotland expects from them in relation to their carbon emissions.

Engaging with people – communities, patients, and staff will be critical to the success of climate mitigation and adaptation in NHS Scotland. A communications and engagement strategy that sets the expectations of the healthcare workforce, patients and visitors of the way in which the service operates, and how and why it will transform to enable more sustainable practices, new modes of consultation, and in how they travel to and from their hospitals will be critical to its success.

The need for a sustainable approach needs to be embedded into all aspects of the delivery of care, not as an add-on to existing practice.The strategy outlines an approach to put in place a network of Sustainability Champions and with responsibility for delivering sustainable practices managed at Board level. It is not clear how this will be resourced.

We believe it is important that dedicated resource is put in place to ensure a strategic leadership framework of individuals driving this forward will give it the best chance of success. Staff across NHS Scotland are already stretched with workforce shortages across the system an ongoing concern. It is unclear how an already stretched workforce will have the capacity to deliver the change needed to drive this strategy without additional dedicated resource.

We feel this requires strong government leadership at a high level to monitor and direct Health Boards so that there is accountability to parliament with development of robust metrics to assess performance.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss any of the points raised above or to more broadly engage on the strategy.

Kind regards

Dr Richard Smith CBE, FMedSci, Chair UK Health Alliance on Climate Change
Dr Elaine Mulcahy, Director UK Health Alliance on Climate Change
Dr Miles Mack, Chair Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland
Professor Andrew Elder, President Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Professor Mike Griffin, President Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
Mr Mike McKirdy, President Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

Category: Climate Change


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