Sustainability and our Green Plan

Sustainability 2040 graphic How we’re becoming a greener, more energy efficient Trust

A sustainable health and care system delivers high quality care and improved public health without exhausting natural resources or causing ecological damage. Over the last 10 years the NHS has become a world leader in the response to climate change and has reduced its emissions by 30%.

As a Trust we have a responsibility to act on what is both a climate and health emergency. We are working to reduce our own carbon footprint, be more energy efficient and cut down on waste and we want to make sustainability an integral part of our culture and day-to-day operations.

There are huge benefits from this, not just for our planet, but for the continued health and wellbeing of our staff and our local communities. For example, air pollution is linked to killer conditions like heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

Our Trust Green Plan

In 2020 we formed a Sustainability Group made up of committed staff from a wide range of roles. They have been looking at areas including procurement, recycling and a how in our clinical work we can encourage the use of more sustainable equipment and supplies.

The group has been engaging with staff to develop our strategy and encouraging a greener outlook.

The work done so far has helped us to develop our: Green Plan 2021-2024 (click to open) [pptx] 3MB

Launched in November 2021 it will support the best, most efficient and forward-thinking healthcare and reflect the greener ambitions of the wider NHS. The plan addresses our responsibilities, impact, proposed actions and the next steps we will take to reduce carbon, waste, water consumption, single-use plastics and improve air quality.

Sandra Iskander, Deputy Director of Strategy said: “Sustainability is an incredibly important subject and one that our staff are very passionate about. Our goals are not just limited to reducing carbon emissions. We want to consider social and economic impacts such as enhancing wellbeing and reducing inequalities. To achieve our own targets, and those of the wider NHS, we must consider a well-rounded approach to delivering sustainable healthcare.”

Our Trust Green Travel Plan

Our Trust is committed to reducing emissions associated with our activities and operations. Decarbonising our travel is a key enabler to help us achieve net zero emissions in line with Greener NHS commitments. This Green Travel Plan outlines how we will encourage and facilitate behaviour change that will increase use of sustainable and active modes of travel to and from our Trust sites.

Developing a Green Travel Plan is a fundamental action arising from the Trust’s Green Plan and will support us to reduce our emissions associated with travel and logistics.

In developing our Trust: Green Travel Plan 2021-26 [pptx] 9MB we have undertaken:

  • a policy and drivers review to understand key commitments and targets the Trust must consider
  • a staff travel survey to gather data on staff commuting as well as feedback on barriers to active travel and perceptions regarding sustainable travel
  • an inventory of all sustainable travel assets to baseline infrastructure in place

This Green Travel Plan aligns with the travel, logistics and air quality workstream in our Green Plan and provides an additional focus on site specific opportunities and initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of travel associated with our services by considering a broad range of interventions that support our transition to sustainable and active travel.

Ongoing sustainability work at our Trust

Update on our LED lighting project: highly efficient technology set to save us £115,000 a year

In summer 2023 we shared news of an exciting sustainability project at University Hospital Lewisham - the plan to replace 3000 existing lights with energy saving LED versions.

With work set to take place over the course of a year, we’re happy to report that the team has already made huge progress at the half way stage. Taking our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the green zone as a brilliant example of the work done so far, where the team have replaced 121 lights - taking the savings already made and those projected for the rest of 2024 - this one area alone will save us an amazing £19,700 per year on energy.

Gary Singh, the project manager, says: “LED is a highly efficient technology and uses 50% less energy on average compared to a standard fluorescent bulbs. LED smart technology is also able  to turn off and dim the lights when presence is not detected. Over the course of a year these bulbs are estimated to save us over £115,000 – and over the 12 year lifespan of the bulbs almost £1.5 million - with carbon savings of 107 tonnes per year / 1,284 tonnes over the projects lifetime.

“We can also target and repair any faults very easily and monitor our energy consumption remotely. Thank you to all of our colleagues who have helped us to get this work done so efficiently and those who have been understanding throughout any disruptions.”


New, more energy efficient ‘chillers’ are projected to make big savings

Equans are our PFI provider for delivering technical and energy services to the Riverside Building at University Hospital Lewisham. In summer 2023 they installed two brand new ‘chillers’ – these systems provide the chilled water that feeds the cooling coil within the air handling unit and the fan coils which are cooling our operating theatres.

The old chillers had an EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) of 2.6 and the new chillers have an EER of 3.33 - so a huge 47% improvement in terms of direct performance.

The energy and carbon savings for the last six months was approximately: 179,918kWh and 40.48t CO2 (carbon dioxide) respectively. This equates to roughly £36,000 of financial savings for LGT as we are responsible for energy and utility payments.

Robin Fernando, LGT Sustainability Manager said: “This was a really significant piece of work and certainly not an easy project to deliver, so we want to give a huge thank everyone involved. It’s a great example of the way sustainability is now integral to day-to-day operations across our Trust and how we can make an really noticeable difference. We’re all really pleased with the outcome and, as you will see, this is just one of the current work-streams we have in place relating to energy efficiency and cost savings.”


New cardboard balers are already making us savings

New ‘cardboard balers’ have now been installed at both UHL and QEH. They are projected to save us around £30,000 a year!

We currently create around 360 tonnes of cardboard waste a year as a Trust and these machines will compress it down into much smaller, more manageable bundles.

These are not only much easier to store, but when the cardboard is then transferred to a recycling centres it takes far fewer collections – meaning a lot less vehicles travelling to/from our sites and a reduction of our carbon footprint by 10 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) a year!

Our previous, daily, collections of cardboard used to generate 15.71 tonnes of CO2e a year and with these monthly collections we will only generate 5.26 tonnes.

Maria Chavarria, Sustainability and Waste Manager, ISS, says: "As you can imagine reducing the number of large vehicles collecting carboard from daily visits, to one a month, will have a huge impact on our carbon footprint. We’re very excited about the financial savings and the sustainability aspects of this project."


Our Bladder, Bowel and Pelvic Health team had a truly incredible 2023

Among some very well-deserved, award-winning recognition, they have also made an astounding £100,000 worth of savings!

The savings were made on containment products (commonly known as continence pads) by ensuring all patients get a relevant assessment and treatment plan to make sure they’re not being prescribed products at the wrong times.

As well as the financial aspects there is also a significant environmental saving as these products go to landfill and are packed with microplastics, taking 500 years to decompose!

Myra Robson, Clinical Lead - Bladder, Bowel and Pelvic Health Service said:  “Quite often, pads have been used as a first line treatment - which is not best practice and can reduce the chances that the patient gets the care they need to improve or cure their symptoms. These financial savings go hand-in-hand with a very important environmental saving so it really is a win-win!

“This work was part of a huge team effort. Colleagues reviewed existing patient lists, redesigned the product service and established team-wide clinical pathways, training and processes. We appointed a member of the team to lead on the patient assessments once they reached the stage of needing products. They are then carefully reviewed and it is ensured that appropriate prescriptions are made. The service has received lots of attention and we have been honoured to present our work at three international events in the past 18 months.”

Statistics show that one in three women and one in ten men will experience urinary incontinence, with one in ten men and women experiencing bowel incontinence. It takes an average of six years for a woman with urinary incontinence to seek help and only 25% ever do! One study showed that 50% of people will mention incontinence to a health care professional and if that consultation does not go well then they never mention it again.

Myra added: “We want to reduce the barriers to accessing help, make those conversations easier, and support our patients to access top quality, evidence-based treatment to reduce or eliminate their symptoms. Reducing inappropriate and unnecessary pad use is one way to help us to do that and we have lots of plans for the future!”


Sustainability and our operating theatres

After the launch of our Trust ‘Green Plan’, our Theatres and Anaesthetics teams decided to focus some time and attention on sustainability. They looked at how they could make their day-to-day practices, and work spaces, more environmentally friendly and save money at the same time.

Imran Sharieff, Speciality Doctor in Anaesthesia, said: “We looked at how we could be more sustainable in all aspects of our work. Things we’re implementing and discussing currently include:

  • We produce a high amount of PVC plastic waste (found in disposable medical devices, surgical masks etc) and we are looking at how this could be recycled more efficiently
  • We have stopped using desflurane and are trying to reduce the use of nitrous oxide, gases used in anaesthetics that are harmful to the environment
  • Breaking down cardboard and other packaging and using the correct recycling streams
  • Bagging and disposing of waste more efficiently.

“We are looking into reusable metal medical devices to replace single use devices, and consulting with our infection prevention and control colleagues to ensure patient and staff safety is never compromised as a result of our sustainability measures. As well as these actions being beneficial to the environment, they will also hopefully save a lot of money for the Trust."


Other news

With our partners ISS we introduced new recycling bins across our two hospital sites and removed single use plastics from our restaurants.

We have put training in place to raise awareness of the most efficient ways to deal with waste.

We have invested in new secure cycle storage for staff to encourage clean, active travel.

We carried out a water saving programme in collaboration with Thames Water to fix leaks across both hospital sites, which has helped reduce wasted consumption.

By switching to e-payslips (in January 2022) we make huge savings in paper, printing and postage costs.

We have worked with ISS to take action to reduce the carbon footprint associated with food by reducing waste, ensuring that plant-based options are always available and recycling any unavoidable waste

In partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society we have opened our wellbeing garden at University Hospital Lewisham. The garden, as well as helping staff, patients and visitors combat stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression, will also help to improve air quality for our local community.

wellbeing garden

National awareness and ambitions

In 2020, the NHS set two net zero emissions targets, with the aim to become the world’s first net zero national health service. The two targets set are:

  • For the emissions we control directly (the NHS Carbon Footprint), we will reach net zero by 2040, with an ambition to reach an 80% reduction by 2028 to 2032
  • For the emissions we can influence (our NHS Carbon Footprint Plus), we will reach net zero by 2045, with an ambition to reach an 80% reduction by 2036 to 2039.

Delivering upon the targets will be a huge challenge, and every area of the NHS needs to act to achieve the target. The greatest reductions can be made in hospitals, but change will be required across the whole system.

At the COP26 climate change (November 2021) conference in Glasgow the ‘NHS Care for the Future’ gallery was prominently displayed.

It featured some great initiatives from Trusts such as the carbon neutral patient menu being introduced at St George’s Hospital in south London. This one idea, where waste food is recycled and converted into energy, has already generated enough electricity to power 55 homes for a month.

They also shared the story of a Newcastle mum who was her first person in the UK to use  climate-friendly pain relief and the pharmacy team at the Royal London Hospital reducing waste in medication. You can find out more on  Greener NHS ambitions and the outstanding work being done to cut carbon emissions by  Trusts all around the UK. 

Please contact us on email: if you have any questions.

Making your own Green pledges

Our staff are making 'Green Pledges' that will have an impact both at work and at home. These include things like:

  • Not printing documents unless its 100% necessary  
  • Eating less meat - trying the vegetarian and vegan options at our staff restaurants
  • Bringing a reusable ‘keep cup’ for takeaway coffee/hot drinks
  • Drinking tap water instead of bottled
  • Unplugging chargers that are not in use and turning off any non-essential equipment
  • Always turning off lights when they leave the office
  • Using the new recycling bins around the Trust in public and staff areas
  • Using our Trust shuttle bus to travel between our University Hospital Lewisham and Queen Elizabeth Hospital sites instead of driving
  • Choosing public transport, walking or cycling more
  • Switching off the engine when parked or waiting
  • Signing up to an energy provider offering a green tarrif - using solar, wind or hydroelectric power.