Junior Doctor Sustainability Fellow
My name is Amy and I am the junior doctor ‘Sustainability Fellow’ for the Severn Deanery. It is a new post this year so I have a blank slate to work with. It is a post I have taken on in addition to being a full time junior doctor. My job description is to use my role as a clinician to help promote sustainable working practices in the deanery and thus reduce carbon emissions.
I see a large part of my role as raising awareness about healthcare sustainability. This blog is the start of my quest to let people know about my role and to promote sustainable healthcare.
I am using the hierarchy of ‘Rs’ in sustainability i.e. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle to help focus my efforts. I have discovered that the main areas of carbon emissions in the NHS are 1 Pharmaceuticals, 2 Medical Instruments, 3 Building energy use (Sustainable Development Unit – Goods and Services Carbon Hotspots 2010). With this in mind, thus far I have focused my energy on pharmaceuticals.
I conducted a study on my ward to see how many pharmaceuticals were wasted during a three week period. I found that the majority of pharmaceuticals wasted were ‘patients' own’ medications issued from outside the hospital which are no longer needed. I wondered what was being done to reduce the number of these medications coming into hospital and if there was any way of reusing or recycling them. In terms of reducing the number of medications coming into hospitals (and also collecting in peoples' homes) there has been a push to reduce prescriptions to 28 days. As for reusing and recycling medications, there is a charitable company called Intercare which accepts certain unused medications from GP practices and redistributes them in developing countries. Although currently in the UK patients' own medications cannot be recycled, a recent survey showed 52% of people would accept reissued medicines which were tested for safety (Sustainable Development Unit – Healthcheck 2012). Food for thought.....
For further reading on the subject: