Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - Innovative models of care

15th September 2023


In 2019, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust became the first healthcare organisation in the world to declare a climate and health emergency and in 2020 we published our Climate Emergency Action Strategy for 2020-2025.

This sets out the plans we’ve developed, across eight themes, towards three long term goals: zero carbon care, clean air, and zero waste.

Sustainable Models of Care

At present anaesthetic gases account for 5% of NHS carbon emissions and fall within the emissions we control. The largest proportion of these anaesthetic gas carbon emissions comes from nitrous oxide, which is a powerful greenhouse gas, in fact it is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Newcastle Hospitals have led the way in trialling innovative new-to-UK equipment to capture and destroy this gas, which is used in many clinical settings, including but not limited to Maternity, Endoscopy, and Dentistry. The UK’s first ‘climate-friendly’ baby was born at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in September 2021 using this N2O capture and destruction technology, previously only available in Scandinavia.

The UK’s first ‘climate-friendly’ baby was born at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in September 2021

The technology converts up to 99% of exhaled N2O into harmless nitrogen and oxygen and also reduces staff exposure to exhaled nitrous oxide, so contributes to a healthier working environment for staff.

Biodiversity at Freeman Hospital

With a growing body of evidence of the benefits green spaces have on recovery, staff well-being, mental health and more, we have recognised the important role we play in contributing towards national goals and targets set out on biodiversity. These include halting decline in species abundance, restoration of wildlife rich habitats and reducing the risk of extinction.

Working with environmental sustainability specialists Genee we have established a baseline Biodiversity Metric Score and developed action plans to increase biodiversity, within a biodiversity management plan.

Work has started on those actions including hedge planting, tree planting, bird boxes, bat boxes and wildflower and bulb planting.

Action plans developed to increase biodiversity

Embedding Sustainability

A programme of employee engagement and training has been developed, growing from a group of Green Champions to a tiered network of engaged and motivated staff, mobilised and empowered to take action.

Approximately 70% of the total carbon footprint is attributed to the products and services we buy and use as an organisation. This means that the way in which our services are delivered will need to change if we are to achieve net-zero carbon, and zero-waste goals. Crucially these changes will be driven by staff within the specialisms themselves.

With an existing network of approximately 400 Green Champions we aimed to retain and grow that network whilst also creating a network of mobilised and knowledgeable change-makers distributed throughout the structure, with time dedicated to their role. The decision was made to create a second type of Green Champion—a Green Champion Plus. The Green Champions Plus have their line managers approval to take the role and drive forward projects relative to their role. In other words whether you are a data analyst or a laboratory manager you will understand how your role impacts on sustainability, and what sort of changes you can make.

We support this network with training, and by providing a forum for them to share ideas and learning. A number of these Green Champions Plus have been pivotal in implementing a ‘Model for Sustainability’ in their departments – a framework we’ve developed to embed sustainability into departmental strategies and culture. This includes:

  • Have a named individual responsible for sustainability and a sustainability working group which meets regularly to drive forward improvements
  • Ensure staff are knowledgeable and bought into sustainability – signpost to training and grow a network of Green Champions and Green Champions Plus
  • Identify and record the main sustainability impacts arising from its activities, and work to reduce these impacts
  • Create an action plan and monitor progress towards the aims contained within it
  • Report progress and share success stories to inspire others

More information on these three projects, our performance and progress, and other case studies is available here

Laura Middlemass, MIEMA, CEnv, is assistant sustainability manager at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Image credit: Shutterstock

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