Coalition governments’ plans for the NHS - A sustainability perspective
The white paper proposes that patients will be offered more choice of health providers and treatments, and this means that patients will therefore be more discerning of the practices of their providers.
Healthcare providers will need to ensure that their practices are ethical and sustainable if they are to compete with other providers. Also staff will be empowered if the organisations they work for ensure that their practices are socially responsible and sustainable. Empowering health professionals, ensuring all NHS trusts are foundation trusts and increasing freedoms of the foundation trusts as proposed by the white paper will encourage innovation. Sustainability is a key component of innovation and should be integral to all clinical practices.
The white paper also highlights the importance of efficiencies in the NHS through the QIPP programme and the importance of improving energy efficiency and sustainable forms of delivery in the NHS. It is therefore important for clinicians and foundation trusts to adopt the 4 key principles of sustainable healthcare - of prevention, greater responsibility by patients, utilising leaner care pathways and using low carbon technologies if they are to provide the best quality healthcare for patients. NICE quality standards have already incorporated prevention as a key aspect of quality. The foundation trusts and clinicians would need to be supported with evidence of best practice and this means that research into sustainable health is important. This white paper has highlighted the commitment by the government in promoting and conducting research on new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating disease in improving quality and productivity in the NHS and provides a good opportunity for research into sustainable health.
The government has also made other significant announcements in July. After ten years of service putting sustainability on the map, the Sustainable Development Commission has unfortunately had its funding withdrawn. However, it has also made positive commitments towards sustainability in health. The Department of Health has announced that all NHS organisations are expected to have a Board Approved Sustainable Development Management Plan (SDMP) in line with their carbon reduction commitments. They acknowledge that the mix between economy, community and environmental sustainability through the SDMP is proving core to the NHS and to the transformational changes ahead, provide financial savings and enable avoidance of penalties from the Government’s legally binding Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme.
The white paper provides a great opportunity to highlight sustainability as important to delivery of high quality healthcare and to public health. We would appreciate your input into how we can best influence this agenda and work alongside the new government. Please contact us with your valuable advice and suggestions.