How a Sheffield health campaign is aiming to make the NHS greener
A Sheffield GP believes that taking steps towards a greener general practice will be a boon for the environment as well as patients’ wellbeing.
Greener Practice is a primary care climate and sustainability network, founded in 2017 in Sheffield to address the NHS’s carbon footprint and raise awareness of the health benefits of climate action.
The NHS is responsible for about 5.4 percent of the UK’s carbon footprint, and many medical professionals recognise that the climate and ecological crises also represent a health crisis.
Greener Practice supports changes for GPs and patients that will reduce their carbon footprint as well as improving their quality of care.
Doctor Honey Smith, an East Sheffield GP and Chair of Greener Practice, said: “All the initiatives are win win - they make things better for patients as well as decarbonising. In general practice the main carbon footprint hot spots are in prescribing, such as metered dose inhalers (MDIs).”
MDIs contain greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming, and Honey thinks that they are being overused.
She added: “We need increased excellence in asthma care and then people will use fewer inhalers. Patients can change from MDIs to dry powder inhalers - they are much easier to use and better for the environment.
"Reducing medicine wastage is also important - £300 million every year is wasted because medicine is not used. We are looking at alternatives to medication, like green and blue social prescribing. Green prescriptions are events in nature, like walking projects and conservation projects. Blue prescriptions are near water, they are good for the immune system and benefit mental health."
Other initiatives supported by Greener Practice include reducing usage of single use instruments, provision of reusable PPE, and encouraging active travel and a reduction in meat intake among patients.
Honey added: “40,000 people die prematurely from air pollution in the UK every year. With COP26 and conversations raised by Doctors for XR, doctors are realising that we need to grasp the nettle."
Patients can also get involved in the Greener Practice scheme by raising the agenda with their doctors. If they have asthma they can talk to their GP about changing to dry powder inhalers. They can ask about green and blue prescribing, and visit https://www.greenerpractice.c