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Newcastle NHS Trust first to declare ‘climate emergency’

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust has become the first in the UK to declare a ‘climate emergency’, committing to reaching carbon neutral status by 2040. Should other NHS trusts be following suit?

The IPCC has stated that human activity globally has resulted in an average temperature rise of 1°C since pre-industrialised times.

This increase is forecast to reach 1.5°C at some point between 2030 and 2050, bringing with it significant impacts worldwide. The UK government is amongst the frontrunners in terms of concrete commitments to combating climate change, agreeing legally binding legislation to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Alongside these legal requirements to improve sustainability and trim down carbon emissions, there is growing public pressure on both government and wider organisations to address the growing threat of climate change. Developing and implementing a robust and effective carbon reduction strategy is increasingly becoming a key component of your wider public perception.

The NHS Climate Change Burden

Major heat waves in both 2018 and 2019 significantly contributed to additional strain on the NHS, bringing with them increased hospital admissions across the country for heat stroke, dehydration, exhaustion and falls or other injuries. The hot weather also increases the rate of admissions for a range of other issues, including allergies and insect stings as well as heart attacks and strokes.

Poor air quality in many cities and extremes of both cold and hot weather have also been blamed for a big increase in hospital admissions for asthma, with 2018 seeing the highest rate of asthma-related deaths for a decade. Statistics from Asthma UK show that one in 12 are now being treated for the condition. The Environmental Audit Agency warned last year that there could be as many as 7,000 additional preventable deaths across the UK attributed to increased temperatures by 2040 without drastic action to tackle climate change.

Newcastle’s Plan

In announcing their commitment to net zero carbon a decade ahead of the wider UK targets, Newcastle Hospitals were candid in their admittance that they didn’t currently have a detailed plan in place, instead feeling that the commitment was a necessity as the impact of climate change on public health becomes increasingly clear. Partnering with Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University, its announcement stressed the positive impacts of reducing climate change on the health and wellbeing of the community they serve.

While the exact pathway to reaching this goal is still in the works, Newcastle is already in a strong position to attain this target compared with some of their fellow NHS trusts. Ranked top for sustainability reporting across the NHS, Newcastle has already secured a number of major sustainability achievements, including 100% of electricity being generated on-site or purchased from renewable sources, a fleet of electric vehicles and buses, over 300 ‘Green Champions’ across their staff and zero waste being sent to landfill since 2011.

Following Suit

While Newcastle is the first to declare a climate emergency and commit to such ambitious carbon neutral targets, across the country many NHS trusts are already demonstrating a strong commitment to addressing climate change.

While the NHS has been working to improve its sustainability performance across the board since the Climate Change Act was first introduced in 2008, even for the most forward-thinking trusts there are still greater goals to aspire to and more options to explore.

This was highlighted by the 2019 NHS long-term plan, which commits to a 51% reduction in overall carbon emissions by 2025. With this deadline rapidly approaching, particularly the timelines required to implement some of the more ambitious options available, such as on-site generation solutions, ensuring that an effective pathway towards this target is already in place is crucial.

In addition, the current financial pressures on the NHS are expected to continue, meaning that the robust savings on energy bills that can be secured by reviewing and improving usage and procurement could prove increasingly invaluable.

To find out how our energy and sustainability specialists can further support you in implementing your sustainability strategy and creating a viable path to net zero, contact us on 08451 46 36 26 or email