Cornwall students pioneer carbon footprinting in the NHS

Frances Mortimer
Frances Mortimer • 16 March 2009

Three students recruited by the Campaign for Greener Healthcare carried out carbon footprinting studies in Cornwall NHS in summer 2008.  Hayley Manners, studying Analytical Chemistry at the University of Plymouth, Daniel Craven, studying Economics and Politics at the University of Exeter and Kate Dower, studying Biochemistry at the University of Cardiff, were employed through the Shell Step programme, which matches undergraduate students with employers for summer projects. 

Following the publication last year of the NHS England Carbon Footprint (18 million tonnes of CO2 in 2004) the Campaign was keen to pilot tools for estimating travel emissions associated with NHS care, and identify opportunities to reduce waste in pharmaceuticals - two of the biggest contributors to the NHS footprint.

Two of the students, Hayley and Dan, surveyed staff and patients in order to include travel emissions in their analysis of GP surgeries and of St Austell Community Hospital, while Kate worked on mapping the flow of pharmaceuticals through the PCT.  The work was linked to the NHS climate change toolkit pilots running in Cornwall in 2008-9.

Extract from the University of Exeter Shell Step Report 2008

Shell Step Project: Carbon foot-printing exercise

Project Summary: Three Shell Step students pioneered carbon foot-printing for GP surgeries and small hospitals in Cornwall. The Campaign for Greener Healthcare, which is a programme run by Oxford based charity – Knowledge into Action – employed the students.

The aim of the students’ projects was to gather important information about resource efficiency in the NHS in Cornwall. The completed projects are designed to feed into wider reaching pilot schemes being run to gain a better understanding of how to manage the impact of climate change in the county’s Health Service.

A major part of the students’ work was to trial two carbon footprint measurement packages with a Cornish community hospital and four Cornish GP surgeries. The purpose of this was to identify differences between the packages and find out which would work most effectively within smaller units of the NHS.

“The carbon foot-printing exercise carried out by the students provided us with valuable information on energy consumption, the impact of transport – including patient and visitor transport – and about the resource efficiency of pharmaceuticals,” explained Mike Poole, the students’ mentor and Director of Eco-nomic Ltd.

“I have known about and used Shell Step students for many years and feel it is a very successful way of gathering information and data on which management teams and boards can make important decisions. From my previous experience of Shell Step projects that related to the creation of waste, I know that they returned average savings of around £32,000 per company – so I was confident of their success in the NHS. The students all had good analytical minds and focused well on the projects we gave them.”

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