UCLH launches net-zero plan to save money and the planet

By Jo Makosinski | Published: 29-Jan-2023

London trust invests in LED lights and solar panel technology to help drive ambitious carbon reduction strategy

Following the hottest summer on record in the capital, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) has launched ‘Critical Care For Our Climate’ a new strategy which aims to build sustainability in key areas such as clinical care, procurement and supply chain, estates, technology, transport, education and engagement. 

UCLH has invested over £2m in energy-saving measures such as LED lights and has installed an additional 452 solar panels on the hospital roof, which together will save millions in energy costs over the coming years.

The NHS has set a nationwide target of achieving a net-zero carbon footprint by 2040. But, having declared a climate and health emergency in 2021, UCLH wants to go faster and achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by 2031.

And, for indirect emissions – those it can influence along its supply chain – the trust aims to achieve net zero by 2040, five years ahead of the NHS England target.

UCLH has already made significant progress in reducing its carbon footprint by:

  • Investing over £2m in low-energy LED lights across its hospitals. These use a quarter of the energy of previous lights, last longer, and will save more than 1,200 tonnes of CO2 per year
  • In 2022, the trust delivered the highest number of virtual appointments of any hospital in England, helping reduce waiting and unnecessary travel for patients. Last year it delivered about 500,000 outpatient appointments virtually, saving over 15 million miles in patient travel each year
  • Anaesthetic gases and inhalers contribute about 5% of the NHS’s total carbon footprint, so reducing their use has been a priority. UCLH has already reduced the use of the most-environmentally-harmful anaesthetic gases by over 70% by choosing greener alternatives

The new strategy will build on these achievements, focusing UCLH’s carbon reduction initiatives in four main areas:

  • Clinical care
  • Hospital buildings, technology, and transport
  • Suppliers and products used
  • Education and engagement

And key targets include:

  • Enabling lower-carbon medical treatments and reducing waste and overuse
  • Eliminating the use of natural gas and other fossil fuels by 2031
  • Setting mandatory carbon reduction targets for all suppliers
  • Adapting patient and visitor transport, staff commuting and fleet vehicles to reduce emissions

Luke O’Shea, UCLH director of innovation, said: “The NHS already has ambitious sustainability targets and UCLH wants to go further and faster in reducing its carbon footprint.

Critical Care for Our Climate, will help us make the shift to net zero that is so important for UCLH patients and staff, the local community, and our planet, while continuing to deliver first-class patient care.”

Elliott Westhoff, UCLH programme lead for sustainability, added: “The strategy has been put together after extensive consultation. We are grateful to all staff and our partner organisations for the ideas and enthusiasm they have contributed so far and look forward to working with colleagues across UCLH to deliver net zero.”

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