New strategy sets out vision for sustainable health and social care services

20-Mar-2014

Carbon reduction, improvements in procurement, and service transformation at heart of government\'s vision for the future

Carbon reduction and sustainability will be the cornerstones of NHS services moving forward, according to a new Department of Health’s strategy aimed at futureproofing health services for the future.

The Department of Health and Public Health England have launched Sustainable, Resilient, Healthy People & Places , a 28-page document outlining three goals for the NHS to aim for by 2020.

Our NHS, public health and social care system is at an important crossroads. Whether we consider our demographics, our use of resources or the financial forecasts, it is widely accepted that the current health and care system is unsustainable without radical transformation

The strategy describes the opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of health services, improve the natural environment, and tackle climate change. The vision and goals have been developed following extensive consultation covering all parts of the healthcare system.

Introducing the paper, Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of NHS England; and Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, state: “Our NHS, public health and social care system is at an important crossroads. Whether we consider our demographics, our use of resources or the financial forecasts, it is widely accepted that the current health and care system is unsustainable without radical transformation.

“For the first time we are developing an approach to sustainability that embraces the entire health and care system, not just one part of it.

“We are clear that we need to work in partnership not only within and across the organisations, but also with our communities, to unleash the opportunities and benefits needed to improve genuine health and wellbeing. Unless we make working sustainably a priority, all our other priorities could be undermined.”

The three goals set out in the strategy are to create a healthier environment enhancing natural resources while reducing pollution and carbon emissions; ensuring communities and services are resilient to changing climates; and ensuring every opportunity contributes to health lives and healthy environments.

To support these goals, a number of modules have been developed that focus on specific key areas. Every module explores a different angle to help strengthen action within locally-determined priorities. They are accompanied by implementation guidance notes. The modules are leadership, engagement and development; sustainable clinical and care models; healthy, sustainable and resilient communities; carbon hotspots; and commissioning and procurement.

With more-consistent measures of environmental impact, we hope in future to produce guidance that will improve the quality of care and the health of current and future populations by taking into account the use of environmental as well as financial resources

In terms of carbon reduction opportunities, the strategy covers three main areas: pharmaceuticals, medical devices and medical gases; energy; and travel and transport. For commissioners and procurement professionals, the module looks at both services and products.

The strategy states: “Commissioning of services and the procurement of products are very powerful levers to influence the delivery of sustainable services. Commissioners can develop and use criteria to stimulate more ambitious and innovative approaches to delivering care that costs less, creates less environmental harm, and reduces inequalities.

“Equally, the significant procurement budget for goods and products used by the health and social care system provides multiple opportunities to maximise social, economic and environmental value.”

Further modules are expected to be published later this summer and early next year reflecting areas including the need for innovation within the marketplace.

Commissioning of services and the procurement of products are very powerful levers to influence the delivery of sustainable services. Commissioners can develop and use criteria to stimulate more ambitious and innovative approaches to delivering care that costs less, creates less environmental harm, and reduces inequalities

The Health and Wellbeing Boards set up as part of the NHS reforms will take a leading role in delivering the strategy over the coming years, publishing annual progress reports; and a cross-system national group has been put together to support sustainable development across all areas.

In addition, Public Health England and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health will collect and share information on the most-effective actions, creating a much-needed evidence base for health and social care organisations.

The strategy has been welcomed by David Haslam, chairman of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). He said: “We recognise the importance of environmental sustainability and so we encourage research into the environmental impact of prevention and healthcare interventions which we will take into account in the development of our guidance in the future.

“With more-consistent measures of environmental impact, we hope in future to produce guidance that will improve the quality of care and the health of current and future populations by taking into account the use of environmental as well as financial resources.”

The paper adds: “As a minimum the strategy needs to ensure the health and care system meets the Climate Change Act and related legal requirements. At its best it needs to ensure that the health and care system is a visible and empowering example of taking sustainable development forward.”

The document outlines examples of pioneering projects across the country, which it urges other organisations to replicate. These include a Nottingham trust where hospital patients are given food mostly sourced locally and fresh soup is produced daily for patients and meals-on-wheels services across the city. If 30 trusts in the country did this, the strategy predicts it could save £6m a year.

And at Barts Health NHS Trust a targeted campaign to switch off the lights and close the doors reduced energy wastage, improved the patient experience, and saved money. If all trusts did this it could save £35m and 280,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.

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Click here to access the full strategy.

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