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Brighton and Hove GPs take steps to tackle Climate Change

By: Brighton & Hove City Teaching Primary Care Trust

This initiative has also got the staff to start to think of their own Carbon footprint and looking at ways to reduce it. Increased physical activity levels of staff

£1K per GP practice (Estimated)

GP practices in Brighton & Hove have become some of the first in the UK to take direct action in the fight to prevent Climate Change. In a unique project led by a local campaign group and supported by Brighton & Hove City PCT and Sussex Community NHS Trust, over a quarter of the city’s practices have signed up to a voluntary initiative which aims to help them measure and reduce their carbon footprint.

The project, which began life back in 2010, was developed through the Brighton & Hove “10:10” Healthcare Group (http://www.brightonandhove1010.org/) and built on pioneering work carried out by Dr Sally Barnard (Mile Oak Medical Centre) and Dr Rachel Cottam (then of Portslade Health Centre). Both had worked independently within their practices to raise awareness about Climate Change and its impact on human health and had taken practical steps to reduce their own surgeries’ carbon footprints, largely through energy conservation measures. Since coming together through the 10:10 project they have been instrumental in engaging a further 11 practices in Brighton & Hove in carbon reduction efforts.

The NHS has been promoting action against Climate Change since it published its Carbon Reduction Strategy in 2007. This showed the NHS carbon footprint to be 18 million tonnes CO2, which just a year later had risen to an incredible 21 million tonnes. Encouragingly, steps taken by NHS Trusts to reduce their emissions since 2007 appear to be paying off. The NHS Sustainable Development Unit’s most recent report, “Health Check 2012”[1], suggests that the carbon emissions from the NHS in England have stopped rising and have started to level off. Importantly, however, these figures do not include emissions from GP surgeries and with new research showing that the majority of the public want the NHS to be more sustainable[2] the local 10:10 project is being seen as a way of encouraging a greater contribution to this important challenge by primary care in Brighton & Hove.

In rolling out the project to include other practices in the city the group enlisted the help of Sussex Community NHS Trust’s Environmental Manager, Will Clark, who has worked with those practices that have signed up to the project to undertake energy surveys of their premises. The surveys involve thorough a review of the practice’s use of energy, from the supply tariffs the practice is currently signed up to, to the condition of the building and efficiency of specific energy users (e.g. lighting and heating equipment) through to levels of staff awareness about how to save energy in the workplace. Each practice is given a basic carbon footprint and is benchmarked against national and Brighton & Hove average performance to give an idea of how well (or not so well!) they are doing. The benchmark also gives an indication of the scope available to the practice to make improvements. A walk-round of the practice enables a list of energy saving opportunities to be drawn up and prioritised and a simple carbon saving target is proposed within a practice-specific summary report.

The energy saving opportunities identified to date range from simple no/low cost measures, which include for example conducting a staff energy awareness campaign (e.g. “switch off” campaign[3]) and tweaking the timer and temperature settings on heating and domestic hot water equipment to ensure energy is not being used unnecessarily, through to longer-term options requiring capital investment. Medium cost options include replacing lighting (e.g. moving away from incandescent bulbs, which are being phased out in Europe, or inefficient fluorescent lighting in favour of modern, low-energy equivalents), installing lighting controls (e.g. timer controls or motion sensors) and upgrading insulation and lagging pipework. Longer-term savings can be achieved through boiler replacement (e.g. installing an A-rated condensing boiler) and even looking at installing small-scale renewable energy systems, i.e. photovoltaics, to cash in on new Government incentive schemes.

Importantly, it isn’t just the environment that benefits from such measures: with rising energy prices there is also a strong financial incentive for practices to take action to reducing energy consumption. Typical savings range from 10% to 15% but can be as high as 30% in some practices, which can mean potential financial savings in excess of £1,000 per annum! Of course, unlocking these saving does require dedicated time and resources within the practice. However, this project has shown that there is an appetite to make a real contribution to Climate Change agenda among GP practices in Brighton & Hove and scope to deliver valuable cost savings at the same time – a genuine “win-win”!

[1]  http://www.sdu.nhs.uk/documents/publications/Health_Check_Carbon_Footprint_2012.pdf

[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/healthcare-network/2012/feb/02/nhs-leaders-sustainability-survey

[3] The Carbon Trust provides a range of excellent campaign materials which are free to organisations in the UK

The project was developed through the Brighton & Hove “10:10” Healthcare Group (http://www.brightonandhove1010.org/

Will Clark,

Environmental Manager

Sussex Community NHS Trust

Tony Wright, Health Development Specialist, Tony.wright@brighton-hove.gov.uk, 01273 294557