Carbon reporting 'patchy' across the NHS as DH demands evidence of action

24-Apr-2012

Despite cost and health benefits of reducing emissions, report reveals NHS has a long way to go

Despite the ‘clear health and cost benefits’ of reducing carbon emissions, and the introduction of an energy tariff that could see trusts paying tens of thousands of pounds in energy ‘fines’, the response of NHS organisations in England remains ‘patchy’, a worrying new report has revealed.

Independent charity, the Nottingham Energy Partnership, has published the results of an assessment looking at how seriously NHS trusts are taking their commitment to monitoring and reporting on sustainability.

Activity across the NHS to reduce carbon emissions has the potential to save vast amounts of money and make an impact, not only on the UK’s footprint, but also on emissions at a globally-significant scale

And it reveals that, rather than taking a trust-wide view of carbon efficiency, the issue is still largely seen as being the remit of estates and facilities managers.

It also shows that in 2010/11 just 2,67 million tonnes of CO2 was being actively managed and reported on, representing 70% of the total NHS estate emissions for that year, and just 13.5% of the NHS’s total annual carbon footprint.

While procurement activity is responsible for 60% of the health service’s emissions, the data also shows that only 14 trusts in England have reported their procurement footprints in public documents.

Analysis of the findings states: “Activity across the NHS to reduce carbon emissions has the potential to save vast amounts of money and make an impact, not only on the UK’s footprint, but also on emissions at a globally-significant scale.

There are still many trusts that are not measuring, managing or reporting their carbon emissions, despite the clear health and cost co-benefits and the call from the Department of Health

“Many trusts are taking an active role in dealing with carbon emissions as a route to cutting costs and improving and protecting health, but the level of engagement has been patchy across the UK. There are still many trusts that are not measuring, managing or reporting their carbon emissions, despite the clear health and cost co-benefits and the call from the Department of Health.

“Overall, while there are some examples of good practice, far more needs to be done by NHS trusts in managing and reporting carbon missions and natural resources.”

The analysis describes NHS trusts as having ‘country-sized’ carbon footprints, but reveals that most acute trusts were found to have little or no evidence available on where these emissions come from.

The study graded trusts from one to five, with one showing no available detailed evidence and five indicating the availability of fully-detailed information. While acute trusts were mainly at level two, most primary care trusts were at the lowest end of the scale, with just 4% at level five. Mental health trusts, on average, were at level three, with most of the relevant data available, but no detailed footprint available. Ambulance trusts came out on top with a third at level five.

Overall, while there are some examples of good practice, far more needs to be done by NHS trusts in managing and reporting carbon missions and natural resources

The analysis states: “By examining the percentage split in the level of footprinting, it becomes clear that ambulance trusts have been the most likely to take an approach to monitoring, managing and reporting their carbon footprints. This may well be due to the fact that ambulance trusts are significantly exposed to fuel prices. They will be the NHS organisations most likely to experience the direct financial impacts from high carbon emissions, They will also be those most likely to benefit directly and immediately from managing their fossil fuel use.”

On the lack of visibility on procurement reporting, it adds: “It is difficult to evidence quantitative reductions in these emissions compared to the use of direct natural resources.”

By examining the percentage split in the level of footprinting, it becomes clear that ambulance trusts have been the most likely to take an approach to monitoring, managing and reporting their carbon footprints

The report comes as the Government introduces the Carbon Reduction Commitment, whereby NHS trusts will have to purchase carbon allowances which they will then have to use to cover their energy costs. The number of allowances available will be reduced over the coming years, forcing trusts to show a year-on-year cut in emissions. The Department of Health has also, from this year, made it mandatory for NHS organisations to produce a detailed sustainability report as part of their annual reporting process. This will further force them to introduce improvements in monitoring and emissions management.

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To view the full report, and see where trusts rank, click here

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