Setting up a Sustainability Group at work – Climate Action Now!

7 December 2020  |  by Becky Francomb

Climate Action NowI have worked for the NHS for over thirty years and during that time have developed an increasing awareness of the climate and environmental crisis, and the way that health issues are impacted by the crisis.

The NHS is the biggest employer in the country, and comprising nearly a tenth of the UK economy, and as such is both part of the problem and part of the solution:

The links are clear and increasingly acknowledged by health leaders nationally and internationally but I wasn’t sure they were fully recognised by colleagues and leaders in my own organisation which commissions health care on behalf of the local population.  I wanted to do something to change this so started by writing an article for the staff newsletter.  I included some ideas about more sustainable lifestyles and finished by asking people to contact me if they were interested in helping me set up the “Climate Action Now” group.  I was very pleased to get a good response; enough people to hold our first meeting and agree our objectives:

  1. To promote and embed a corporate (CCG) response to the Climate Emergency in everything we do.
  2. To raise staff awareness of the Climate Emergency and promote a sense of personal accountability and empowerment.

The group which meets once a month at lunchtime brings together a range of people with different skills and professional backgrounds.  Since last year the group has achieved some good progress:

Climate crisis = health crisisOver this time our most influential achievement is likely to be persuading the CCG to commission a Sustainable Development Management Plan (SDMP) – sometimes referred to as a Green Plan.  In September the CCG’s the Executive Management Committee gave the go ahead for the award winning Brighton based Care Without Carbon (CWC) team  to produce a “Green Plan” for Sussex CCGs which will look at the how the CCGs operate and what scope there is improve sustainability through our commissioning processes.  Development work will cover a number of different areas including; energy, estates, transport, procurement, waste management, clinical practice and staff engagement.  The plan should be complete early in 2021 and will be the basis for establishing a common set of sustainability goals across health and care partners in Sussex.

The CCGs also commissions primary care services from 179 GP practices across Sussex, including the two practices in Seaford.  Our Climate Action Now programme has been working with GP clinical leads to promote an initiative called Green Impact for Health (GIFH) with local GP practices.  Started in 2014, the GIFH provides up to date guidance about the changes which will improve quality, save money and promote environmental sustainability in general practice. Actions include switching to low carbon inhalers, buying fair trade  / sustainable products, green social prescribing, providing advice for patients in fuel poverty, reducing over-prescribing and reducing waste.

I’m hopeful that the work our group started just 18 months ago is now embedded in the organisation and I’m very pleased to say has been reflected and bolstered by the announcement of the For a Greener NHS initiative early this year, and further developed with the publication of a report on Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service by 2040. As Sir Simon Stevens (Chief Executive of the NHS) says in the forward to this report; “2020 has been dominated by covid-19 and is the most pressing health emergency facing us. But undoubtedly climate change poses the most profound long-term threat to the health of the nation. …It is not enough for the NHS to treat the problems caused by air pollution and climate change, from asthma to heart attacks and strokes. We need to play our part in tackling them at source.”

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