Reflecting on the Sustainability in Health session at our Annual Members’ Conference

Michelle McCann, NHS LPP Category Director for Estates, Facilities and Professional Services

I can’t believe our members’ conference is over for another year. Months of planning went in to the day and when the day arrived it was over in the blink of an eye! I’ve spent some time listening back to the Sustainability in Health session, which our NHS LPP members can also do here, and I’ve highlighted below what the key messages I took away were.

1. The impact of air pollution and what the NHS can do

Dr Mark Harber gave a fantastic presentation to set the scene for the session where he spoke about air pollution. It still shocks me to know the number of deaths related to air pollution each year in the UK.

In 2019, in Greater London, the equivalent of between 3,600 to 4,100 deaths were estimated to be attributable to air pollution. This calculation is for deaths from all causes including respiratory, lung cancer and cardiovascular deaths.

Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK, with between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year attributed to long-term exposure. More than two million Londoners are living in areas exceeding legal air limits – including 400,000 children. Higher air pollution days in London are responsible for 87 more out of hospital cardiac arrests, and 251 children or adults being hospitalised for asthma or strokes.

Dr Harber spoke about what the NHS can do to tackle air pollution, including reducing outpatient appointments by keeping virtual appointments to reduce the volume patient transport journeys, encouraging staff to bike or walk to work where possible and the use of ultra-low emission vehicles for general transport needs such as pathology specimen transportation.

We, as the NHS, have a responsibility to address the impact of air pollution for the sake of our current generation and future generations living in London.

2. There’s more to the sustainability conversation than just carbon

It was great to hear from Alexandra Hammond, Head of Sustainable Procurement and Supply Chain at NHS England and NHS Improvement on how they are engaging with suppliers and developing toolkits to support teams at Trust level. As well as carbon, Alexandra spoke about social value, the importance of enabling communities, small businesses, encouraging supplier diversity and eradicating modern slavery.

3. The anchor institution philosophy

An anchor institution is one that, alongside its main function, plays a significant and recognised role in a locality by making a strategic contribution to the local economy. Michael Wood, Head of Health Economic Partnerships at NHS Confederation, gave a fantastic presentation about how the NHS acts as an anchor and how real power and influence can come from how we network with local organisations. The work the London Anchors team is doing is very exciting and I am looking forward to being able to report on some of the benefits these projects bring.

4. Hearing examples of what trusts do is so powerful

Also speaking at our conference was David Lawson, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Chief Procurement Officer, who described the supply chain delivery analysis for truck and van daily deliveries to the trust. They found that there were 40,000 deliveries to the GSTT site every year. David said: “The irony was that we were treating the impact of air pollution, as well as importing air pollution into the local community. We knew we had a responsibility to do something about that.”

In response, David spoke about how the Trust set up an offsite consolidation centre in Dartford in 2019 which means that they now consolidate about 90% of inbound truck deliveries through the offsite centre, and transport deliveries from there to the Trust by smaller electric vehicles resulting in a reduction in air pollution onsite.

A great example of what the NHS can do to tackle the impact of air pollution!

5. Importance of inventory control

David also touched upon how the most wasteful thing we can do as healthcare professionals is to buy a product, put it on a shelf, allow it to go out of date and then throw it away. That’s why it is so important to have an inventory system to keep a record of what you are purchasing. David said: “It doesn’t matter what system you have, the key is to just have a system”.

For those of you who joined the session, we hope you got something out of it and enjoyed as much as I did. For NHS LPP members who missed the session, you can play it back here until Sunday 8 August 2021. We look forward to seeing you in 2022!

NHS LPP M MCCANNMichelle McCann is our Category Director for our Estates, Facilities and Professional Services category and has over 15 years’ experience working with public sector Estates teams to manage estates with multiple sites/buildings and deliver new build projects.  Before joining NHS LPP, Michelle was part of the project team that delivered the new home for the famous Laboratory of Molecular Biology on the Addenbrooks site in Cambridge and the Francis Crick Institute in Kings Cross during her time at the Medical Research Council. Michelle then went on to lead the Procurement function at Goldsmiths College where she embedded the team within the Estates department to facilitate early involvement in large spend decisions with positive results for a team operating on tight budgets.