Sustainabile Heathcare

Ben Readman, CES MSc graduate, completed his Industrial Placement at Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust (DCHS) and has shared the following blog.

To begin these blog posts entries, it is useful to frame the subsequent projects that I will be undertaking during the placement in the context of Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trusts (DCHS) current sustainability plans. DCHS serves over a million people in the Derbyshire area and must be resilient to provide increasing quality of healthcare services to meet the needs of the population into the future. In order to achieve this, the trust must consider future challenges and be adaptable to reduce its running costs, reduce its environmental impact and increase its social value.

image from @unitednations

Sustainability considerations are often not strictly altruistic, and, in most organisations, sustainability issues are largely framed in a context relevant to the organisation. DCHS and the NHS are no exception to this; the value of sustainability is argued in a health and social value frame in addition to more common monetary value frames seen in other organisations. As the UKs primary care giver, the risks to health presented by environmental issues are at the forefront of DCHS’s plans. In their Sustainable Development Management Plan 2019-21 the impacts of climate change on their organisation have been assessed based on UK climate change projections, an important part of future planning and adaptation that all organisations must consider. The outcomes include, increased in heat-related deaths and illness, increases in air quality-related illnesses and increases in injury and deaths due to flooding among others. The main focus of the trust has been on carbon reduction and air quality, and this continues to be a priority. However, the trust are now looking toward other sustainability issues relevant to the goals of the trust that extend beyond ‘easy wins’ in the organisations operation and address some of the wider issues of sustainability including biodiversity loss, finite resource depletion and social justice and equality issues that are vital to the long term success of the organisation.

The trust have identified some key areas for improvement based on an assessment tool kit that asks a series of questions related to a wide scope of sustainability areas to identify areas for improvement. These are; promoting sustainable care models, improving green space and biodiversity and cross cutting themes of working with staff, patients and communities in addition to improving procurement and supply chain management. The common theme in most sustainability issues is that the status quo cannot continue, and change is required, however actioning these changes can be costly and time consuming. The trust are no exception and are aware of this problem and so have prioritised areas of actions that will yield the best results from relatively low investment. The majority of my work for the trust will centre around these goals and will be discussed in subsequent blogs.