National health organisations make their commitments to sustainable development

Ingeborg Steinbach's picture

The Department of Health and eight major health organisations have stated their organisational commitments to deliver a socially and environmentally sustainable health and care system.

The commitments are summarised in an annual health check for the sector produced by NHS England and Public Health England’s Sustainable Development Unit (SDU). The report 'Sustainable Development in Health and Care – Health check 2017' looks at sustainable development across England and reports on progress.

The national organisations making their pledges are NHS England, Public Health England (PHE), NHS Improvement, the Care Quality Commission, Health Education England, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), NHS Digital and NHS Property Services – in partnership with the Department of Health.

Summary of findings

Overall organisations are cutting their carbon footprint and saving money through reducing energy use, but having less success in addressing water use and the increased costs from waste disposal.  Progress in sustainable approaches to commissioning, procurement and across the social care sector is more difficult to measure and more needs to be done in this area. Sustainable development is increasingly becoming a core part of work. More organisations have board approved Sustainable Development Management Plans (SDMPs) and are reporting annually on their work.

Use of resources

The results have shown that progress continues to be made in reducing carbon emissions. There has been a 0.5% decrease in the building energy carbon footprint between 2013/14 and 2015/16 which has saved £66m.  This progress is welcome particularly as health services face increasing demand and financial challenges. However, progress will need to be made at more ambitious levels over years to come. Water use has increased by 3.5% period and there has been a 9% increase in waste costs, in large part due to high-cost routes such as landfill and incineration (86% of costs).

Planning and reporting

More Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and NHS providers have Board approved SDMPs - 54% up from 52% last year. There has been an increase in the quality of sustainability reporting– with 36% of Annual Reports for CCGs and NHS providers including good or excellent sustainability reporting up from 33% in 2014/15. Organisations are increasingly looking at innovative ways of collaborating with local partners and the public to deliver programmes and projects that will benefit the health of the public, the environment and save money for organisations.

“The commitment shown by these national organisations can be commended as an important first step in the journey. The next of which is to increasingly look outwards to understand how they are able to embed sustainable development into their core roles as regulators, funders, investors in infrastructure and system leaders.”

David Pencheon, Director, Sustainable Development Unit

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