Health and climate change

The climate emergency is a health emergency. 

Many of the drivers of climate change – extreme weather such as drought and heatwaves, lack of access to food and water, clean air, safe drinking water – are also major contributors to ill health and health inequalities. For example, air pollution accounts for one in 20 deaths in the UK.

By taking action to reduce harmful carbon emissions we can help improve health and save lives through reducing cases of asthma, cancer and heart disease. 

Climate change poses a major threat to our health as well as our planet; by cutting carbon emissions, we can reduce hospital admissions. 

What we are doing

In line with wider NHS plans to reach net zero by 2040 for the emissions the NHS directly controls and by 2045 for the emissions it can influence, our sustainability board at Royal Papworth Hospital is taking action to reduce our carbon footprint and provide sustainable healthcare to the communities we serve.

We have already taken action through  not using desflurane, an anaesthetic gas which is one of the worst polluting greenhouse gases, and new waste contracts with improved waste streams.

The location of our hospital, on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, lends itself to sustainable travel with a network of bus routes and cycle ways around Cambridge. We have invested in cycling facilities with a dedicated bike shed for a few hundred bicycles, complete with a bicycle repair station, to encourage staff to cycle to work where possible. 

Our patients come from across the East of England and further afield. Many of them have severe breathlessness or mobility issues due to the heart and lung conditions we treat, but where possible we encourage sustainable travel for our patients. 

Plastic use, energy and water consumption, meat-free meals and staff and patient education have been identified as further areas of focus. 

Our sustainability strategy 

Providing sustainable healthcare is one of our six strategic aims, supported by our 2021-2026 Sustainability Strategy [pdf].

Our Green Plan

Our 2022-24 Green Plan [pdf] sets out our key action areas and targets for delivering sustainable healthcare to the communities that we serve.

It is the first in an on-going series of three-year plans set in the context of our Sustainability Strategy and the NHS Long Term Plan to deliver a net zero National Health Service, and will be underpinned by annual delivery plans against which progress will be reported in our Annual Report.