Amelia James is the Environmental Sustainability Lead for Kent, Surrey and Sussex AHSN and Oxford AHSN. Hugely passionate about her role and about what we can all do to combat climate change, Amelia shares her thoughts on how sustainable innovation can contribute to the delivery of a Net Zero NHS.

Let’s talk climate change

The unprecedented change, suffering and turmoil caused by the climate crisis is, without a doubt, the defining issue of the decade; and of decades to come.

No part of our planet is immune from ecological degradation, extreme weather, rising sea levels, food and water scarcity, natural disasters, artic ice melting, acidification of oceans, deforestation and disruption to food chains.

We must create new ways of living, working and existing; we must innovate in a sustainable way. It is through sustainable innovation that we will invent new products, new services and new pathways that will help us achieve our net zero goals. We must, therefore, gear industry towards sustainability and ensure climate change is at the heart of their focus and decisions.

Sustainability in the NHS

The NHS has been pioneering in sustainability. Not only was it the first health system to set net zero targets back in October 2020, but it is also the first to embed net zero into legislation as of July 2022. The urgency of shifting to a sustainable healthcare system has been understood, and the NHS has set clear net zero targets.

To support the coordination of carbon reduction efforts in the NHS, they have asked all trusts and integrated care boards to produce a Green Plan. Green Plans provide a structured way for each organisation to set out the carbon reduction initiatives and their strategy for reaching the wider net zero targets. Whilst there is much to be done on this journey, the NHS is paving the way for a better, more sustainable tomorrow.

Business innovation is key

Identifying a pathway to net zero emissions for a complex system as large as the NHS is challenging. But sustainable innovation is the true engine of change. Sustainable innovation involves creating new products, services and processes that not only improve the care and safety of patients and create profits for the firm, but also enhance the long-term social and environmental benefits. It’s the ultimate win-win-win. Good for patients, good for business and good the planet. We need industry and businesses to act and get creative. To think of other solutions, to explore alternative ways of doing, to find the sustainable pathways for healthcare. We need innovators to become the key players in the transition to a lower-carbon economy. And the AHSN Network can help businesses do this.

How we can help

The AHSN Network connects the NHS with academia, local authorities, charities and industry. It provides a range of practical support to facilitate change across health and social care economies, with a clear focus on improving outcomes for patients. One of the key areas of focus within the Network is supporting new innovators coming in the NHS; this support ranges from exploring their value proposition, connecting them with NHS organisation to providing sustainability advice and guidance.

The Network is uniquely positioned to understand the NHS’s net zero requirements and understand what innovators need to know and do. They offer a suite of expertise and resources for them on their sustainability journey; and can also connect them with NHS trusts, integrated care boards and the Greener NHS team if their product or service is appropriate. There is sadly no silver bullet to the climate crisis, but if we think long-term, work together and act now, we can help reduce the impacts of climate change.

We must begin to change the way industry thinks and acts. Change how industry is responding to climate change and ensure organisations are getting innovative.

If you’re a supplier and would like to learn more about how the Network can help you, please contact your local AHSN to find out what local assistance is available.

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