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Importance of environmental sustainability in healthcare highlighted in Scottish Parliament

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Royal Pharmaceutical Society highlighted various innovative ways to reduce these carbon emissions, including introducing electronic prescribing.

Representatives for prescribers across Scotland, politicians, academics and clinicians gathered to discuss the importance of environmental sustainability in healthcare during a Scottish Parliamentary reception held at Holyrood on Wednesday (13 December).

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) informed the parliament that medicines account for around 25 per cent of carbon emissions across the NHS, while highlighting the various innovative ways to reduce these carbon emissions.

The NHS in Scotland needs to implement effective environmentally sustainable approaches to healthcare in order to meet its ambition to achieve net zero, RPS pointed out.

Laura Wilson, Director for Scotland at RPS, said: “It was fantastic to bring together pharmacists, parliamentarians and partners from across government and healthcare to highlight the huge opportunity which exists in healthcare to make our systems and processes more environmentally sustainable.

“It was great to be able to discuss a wide range of potential initiatives which will be hugely beneficial for the planet and also efficiency, including introducing electronic prescribing, making information on the environmental impact of medicines readily available and developing an infrastructure for green social prescribing across Scotland.

“I look forward to continuing to work with all the partners who were at the Parliamentary reception to make this a reality.”

Last year, over 10 professional leadership bodies across Scotland signed up to a Joint Statement on Sustainable Prescribing, committing to taking bold action on climate change, which include educating and influencing policy makers about how to make medicines use more environmentally sustainable.

This week’s event, jointly hosted by RPS and Royal College of GPs in Scotland, was the first in a series of events to achieve their collective ambitions on influencing.

Scottish Greens’ spokesperson for Health and Social Care, Gillian Mackay MSP, who sponsored the event, said: “The climate emergency demands a response from everyone wherever they live and in whatever sector they work.

“It is fantastic to witness a dedicated group of healthcare professionals working collaboratively to help the NHS to meet net zero, in a patient centred way.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Royal College of GPs in Scotland to ensure that healthcare in Scotland is as environmentally sustainable as possible.”

In its first Health Effects of Climate Change (HECC) report, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has warned of significant health threats from heat, mosquitos, flooding and food security in the near future.

Under a high-emissions scenario, UK-heat related deaths are estimated to increase by one and a half times in the 2030s and by 12 times by 2070.

In the summer of 2022, the UK experienced temperatures above 40°C for the first time on record, with nearly 3,000 excess deaths recorded across the period.

Deaths due to cold are likely to continue to present a substantial mortality burden, though the numbers are projected to decline by the mid-century.

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