The NHS currently contributes 4% of the country’s total carbon emissions. To address this issue, the NHS are working towards becoming the world’s first net zero national health care system.
As part of this approach, several steps have been outlined to decarbonise the healthcare system, one of which being the decarbonisation of medicines and supply chains.
“…steps will be taken to decarbonise our medicines and supply chain: By working with our suppliers to ensure that all of them meet or exceed our commitment on net zero emissions before the end of the decade”
NHS England and NHS Improvement Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service (2020)
Unity Insights have recently worked closely with Brighton and Sussex Medical School and University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust in assessing the environmental impact of single use versus reusable medical apparatus. Both carbon costing and economic modelling was carried out to determine the environmental, financial, and economic impacts of switching from single use to reusable medical equipment, namely laryngeal blades and suture kits.
The results showed that using reusable laryngeal blades, instead of single use blades, could result in financial savings of approximately £2.7m if the switch was made nationally. Conversely, the switch to reusable suture kits was found to result in additional costs of approximately £380k, if the change was made nationally. The financial results are demonstrated in the image.
On the carbon emissions front, the evaluation uncovered that a switch to reusable laryngeal blades and suture kits could reduce the carbon footprint of the current usage (i.e., single use alternatives), by approximately 52% and 90% respectively. This poses the question of the viability of the implementation of reusable suture kits, when financially it may cost more, but the environmental savings are largely beneficial.
In this case, we may say that the environmental savings prevailed! As a result of on-going studies as well as this evaluation, funding has been approved to switch to reusable suture kits within University Hospitals Sussex University Trust.
Unity Insights stands with the NHS on their plight to become Net Zero and continue to work on various other projects that assess the impact of health care interventions and programmes on the environment.