(Photo: iStock).

NHS Chief Sir Simon Stevens today announced a new initiative to tackle climate ‘health emergency’.

The grassroots campaign, named ‘For a greener NHS’, will encourage NHS staff and hospitals to cut their carbon footprint.

It will be supported by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change – which includes representative bodies covering over 650,000 NHS staff.

The latest campaign will build on the work already underway to help trusts and staff to cut emissions, energy use and waste, including phasing out oil and coal boilers and increased use of LED lighting and electric vehicles.

NHS will establish an expert panel, chaired by Dr Nick Watts of the University College London, to chart a practical route map this year to enable the NHS to get to ‘net zero’, thereby becoming the world’s first major health service to do so.

Staff and local NHS organisations are encouraged to feed in ideas to the expert panel, and evidence of steps they may have already taken.

Sir Simon said: “With almost 700 people dying potentially avoidable deaths due to air pollution every week we are facing a health emergency as well as a climate emergency.”

NHS expects the campaign to make a huge impact with 1.3 million of its staff participating. As of now, the health and care system in England is believed to be responsible for an estimated four to five per cent of the country’s carbon footprint.

“While the NHS is already a world leader in sustainability, as the biggest employer in this country comprising nearly a tenth of the UK economy, we’re both part of the problem and part of the solution,” Sir Simon said.

“That’s why today we are mobilising our 1.3 million staff to take action for a greener NHS, and it’s why we’ll be working with the world’s leading experts to help set a practical, evidence-based and ambitious date for the NHS to reach net-zero,” he added.

Air pollution is linked to killer conditions like heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, contributing to around 36,000 deaths annually.

A recent study reveals that there are 673 additional out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and hospital admissions for stroke and asthma on high pollution days.

Dr Nick Watts, chair of the new NHS Expert Panel, said: “Everyone who works in healthcare has a responsibility to take action on the health emergency posed by climate change, and I encourage all NHS staff to join the campaign to feed in their ideas and help drive this forward”.

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