After celebrating its 70th birthday back in 2008, the National Health Service is facing unprecedented demand and an ageing population.
Over the next 15 years in the UK, there will be four million more people aged over 65, a 40% increase in hospital admissions, and larger number of people with numerous long-term conditions.
The delivery of NHS services has a significant impact on the environment; it is the largest public sector producer of carbon emissions in Europe. Each year the organisation emits 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). The NHS is responsible for approximately 4-5% of the UK’s annual carbon footprint.
In 2008, when the Climate Change Act became law, it set the UK on a path to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Under the Act, NHS organisations are mandated to hit legally binding governmental targets for emission reductions of 34% by 2020. However, a 2020 NHS report has declared intentions to bring all direct carbon emissions to net zero by 2040, with the aim to achieve an 80% emissions reduction by 2028-2032. They are expected to include sustainability and climate change in their annual reporting to Monitor, the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts and the Department of Health.
Tackling both the increasing demand and environmental issues is a huge and complex task. But it will bring significant financial, social and environmental dividends. The issue is how stakeholders can collaborate to further the positive impacts.