It is now widely accepted that climate change represents a major threat to global health. However, the very provision of healthcare itself results in greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to climate change. Indeed, the NHS in England is responsible for around 25% of all public sector emissions. Consequently, fundamental changes are required to the ways in which healthcare is provided if the NHS is to achieve its carbon reduction targets. Furthermore, as energy use contributes only around 22% of the carbon footprint of the NHS, these changes must extend beyond reductions in energy use. A clinical transformation to lower carbon care is required, to which the adoption of lower carbon healthcare treatments, technologies, and pathways will make an important contribution.
Renal medicine was amongst the first specialties to measure and address its own environmental impact with the creation of the Green Nephrology Programme in 2010. The programme is led and supported by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare and aims to support the transformation to more sustainable kidney care whilst simultaneously improving quality and efficiency. The Renal Association has been a key partner in the programme. Amongst other achievements, the programme has overseen work to establish the carbon footprints of both haemodialysis and a renal service and has developed case studies of interventions to reduce these.
There are many ways in which the staff and patients of the UK renal units can get involved. You can find out more, and read a number of case studies, at Sustainable Healthcare or by contacting Dr Frances Mortimer or Dr Andy Connor.