Philips partners with County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust to reduce intensive care unit’s carbon footprint

By Jo Makosinski 6-Nov-2023

Philips clinical and environmental specialists in NHS first for co-development of a sustainability blueprint to reduce carbon emissions and material waste in the intensive patient care unit at one of the largest integrated care providers in England

The new partnership will identify opportunities to reduce carbon emissions across the hospital's intensive care unit

The new partnership will identify opportunities to reduce carbon emissions across the hospital's intensive care unit

Royal Philips has partnered with County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT) to identify key opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint and waste material at the intensive care unit (ICU) at Darlington Memorial Hospital.

The work is understood to be the first time a global company has collaborated with an NHS trust in this way, using its clinical and environmental expertise in sustainability to identify efficiency improvements with the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of a critical care department. 

A team of nine clinical and environmental specialists from Philips has worked with the trust over six months, analysing data; interviewing clinical staff including physicians and nurses; and undertaking shadowing and observation sessions relating to clinical workflow, supply chain and procurement, medical technology, and staff and the patient experience.

And the results have formed a blueprint to drive further change and improvement across the trust in line with the NHS’s overall target of being the world’s-first net-zero national health service by 2040.

The analysis has been developed as part of an existing 14-year strategic agreement between Philips and the trust, initially focused on support for radiology services.

Critical care was chosen as a focus area because it represents a significant portion of the NHS carbon footprint and is one of the most-expensive types of care. 

The key areas highlighted by the team for enhancing sustainable care were:

  • ICU discharge optimisation: Optimising ICU capacity, with earlier discharge of patients no longer requiring critical care, freeing up vital staff and equipment resource, improving health outcomes, and substantially reducing the carbon footprint associated with patient care and reducing costs
  • Reducing waste in the supply chain: Including reducing the high CO2 impact of single-use items such as arterial lines and saving costs by using less, re-using, or finding alternatives;
  • Staff experience: Driving cultural change through staff training on the latest sustainability requirements, identifying sustainability ambassadors, enabling staff to share ideas, measuring success, and recognising staff for their efforts
  • Medical technology: Reducing use of power and effective management of medical equipment, switching it off when not in use, reducing waste and making savings; and reducing excessive noise including from patient alarms which can be distracting for staff and patients
  • Strategic refurbishment: Reducing costs and CO2 emissions through extending the lifespan of existing buildings 

Following the analysis, the trust has implemented a number of recommended initiatives including staff reminders on sustainability requirements and environmental impact from activities; prevention of unnecessary waste; ensuring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use is appropriate to each patient and not a blanket policy; and actively no longer treating patients as a medical issue – de-medicalisation – as their health improves.

“Philips took time to undertake quantitative analysis which validated our suspicions and provided outputs we could present back to the wider trust”, said Dr Richard Hixson, consultant in anaesthesia and critical care medicine at CDDFT

“The quality of care we provide on the unit has gone up because of the work, as well as through the direct way we serve certain groups of patients.

As the first 360 sustainability assessment for the NHS, this collaboration shows the potential of finding solutions that care for patients, our health workforce, and the planet all at once, helping to create more-resilient health systems for the future

“For example, by looking at patient flow and de-medicalisation of patients, we are helping to ease demand on critical care by adjusting medication, removing monitoring that is no longer required, and moving patients onto new pathways, in a positive way.”

Mark Leftwich, managing director at Philips, added: “Healthcare providers now have the responsibility to safeguard both our wellbeing and our environment, with climate change and human health working hand in hand.

“This first-of-kind partnership between Philips and County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust is an important milestone in the race to reach net zero and provide more-sustainable care.

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“As the first 360 sustainability assessment for the NHS, this collaboration shows the potential of finding solutions that care for patients, our health workforce, and the planet all at once, helping to create more-resilient health systems for the future."

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