Dedicated staff at GP practice, Richmond Medical Centre, are celebrating after winning a prestigious environmental award.
The popular centre, in the East of Sheffield, has won the the highly coveted Royal College of General Practitioners’ South Yorkshire Practice of the Year Award for its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.
Dr Honey Smith, speaking on behalf of the practice, said: “We are delighted to have won this award. The World Health Organisation believes that climate change is currently the most significant risk to human health worldwide, and so it is vital that people working in the NHS educate the public about this threat and do everything we can to reduce the carbon footprint of the NHS itself, which is a huge consumer of resources.”
Richmond Medical Centre is keen to adopt win-win solutions to use NHS resources wisely and help the planet, said Dr Smith. The doctors have installed solar panels which generate much of their electricity and have reduced their paper usage by increasing electronic communications, printing double sided and re-using non-confidential waste paper. They have joined initiatives to reduce unnecessary and costly medications and to recycle plastic inhalers. They promote “green prescribing” to boost emotional and physical health.
“Green prescribing is a “form of social prescribing based on active travel and engagement with nature,” said Dr Smith and added: “Engagement with nature has undoubted beneficial effects on emotional wellbeing and may well be good for physical health too; active travel, by bicycle or on foot, improves cardiovascular health whilst being carbon neutral and avoiding contributing to pollution. Doctors can do a great deal to promote these healthy activities.” Dr Smith said he frequently cycles to work and does visits on her bicycle.
The doctors have agreed the planting of fruit trees on practice land, in association with Heeley City Farm. Patients will be encouraged to tend the trees organically and to harvest the fruit for their own use. The doctors have embraced buying fair trade tea and coffee for staff with Dr Smith adding: “Saving the environment is a matter of social justice as well as being crucial for us all. The poor of all countries suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change, so it’s important that GPs show concern for the world’s poorest by buying fairly traded, sustainably sourced tea and coffee.”
There’s still plenty to be done, said Dr Smith, and Richmond Medical Centre plans to increase its environmental work. She said she hoped to use staff and patient stories to promote healthy lifestyles and added: “Another win-win solution is the promotion of plant-based diets, which both improve cardiovascular health and reduce carbon emissions. Even one fewer meat- based meal a week would help our own health and that of the planet.”