My role as W.I.S.E. Sustainability Fellow in Ophthalmology
Environment and climate change have been areas I’ve been passionate about for a while, and I have made changes in my personal life to decrease my own carbon footprint. However, I have been at a loss of what I could do in terms of my professional life. Fortunately, as the W.I.S.E (Welsh, Ireland, Scotland and England) Sustainability Fellow in Ophthalmology this year, I have been learning about the impact of healthcare on the environment and what I could do to lessen that impact.
NHS is responsible for 5% of all UK’s environmental emissions. Surgical disciplines also have the highest carbon footprint in healthcare, and cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgery worldwide. Therefore, as an ophthalmologist, I am well-placed to make a difference, and definitely should be doing as much as I can.
This year, I have taken over from Dr Alex Chiu, the previous W.I.S.E. Ophthalmology Sustainability Fellow, to carry on the work of carbon footprint in cataract surgery. We have been using the Eyefficiency app to collect data on cataract surgery. This study is still undergoing during the COVID era, so we can compare the carbon footprint of cataract surgery before and during COVID.
Another project we are doing is looking at ophthalmic surgeons and nurses’ attitude towards waste. This work was already conducted by Professor Chang and Professor Thiel in the US, and we are planning to make a collaborative effort to do the same in the UK. The survey results from UK doctors and nurses will definitely be interesting!
The third project currently underway is about the carbon footprint of disposable tonometer prisms compared to reusable ones. Almost every patient that has an outpatient appointment will require their eye pressure measured. The disposable prisms are the mostly used ophthalmic equipment, and this single-use plastic is disposed with the sharps waste. We hope that by comparing the carbon footprint of resuable and disposable tonometer heads, we can make a case for hospitals to switch to reusable tonometer heads.
We have some exciting and interesting projects and I really hope the work will contribute to achieving the NHS net zero targets!
I would like to thank the Centre of Sustainable Health for opening my eyes to effects of healthcare on climate change and teaching me the necessary skills to enable me to contribute towards a greener NHS. Also, I would like to thank Thea pharmaceuticals for sponsoring me. Lastly, I would like to thank Mr Morris for his guidance and support in the projects.