How to suggest sustainable practices at work

12 December 2022  •  Locum
How to suggest sustainable practices at work

Sometimes, even the best healthcare providers can become set in their ways. Entering a practice as a new locum means you're seeing the workplace with fresh eyes. However, you may feel unsure how to suggest sustainable practices at work without causing offence to long-serving personnel. On the contrary, most healthcare practitioners will be happy to learn eco-friendly methods of operating to reduce their carbon footprint.

Why is the health service going green?

The National Health Service has recognised how climate change poses a major threat to our planet and our health. The Greener NHS programme was launched in October 2020, making the UK's health service the first in the world to commit to reaching carbon net zero.

The report, Delivering a Net Zero Health Service, set out the NHS's clear goal to combat the threat to patients, employees and the public of accelerating climate change. The initiative is a collaboration between health trusts across the UK, who are sharing ideas on how to create a better and more sustainable future.

Health service employees, hospitals, partners and suppliers are building on the sustainable practices being implemented by service providers already. As well as reducing the impact of climate change on the environment and public health, working in a sustainable manner also means saving money for the health service.

During the Greener NHS programme's first year in operation, the health service reduced its emissions by an amount equivalent to powering 1.1 million homes for one year. Health bosses say even more can be achieved through working together.

How much waste does the health sector generate?

The definition of sustainable development is the idea of ensuring a better quality of life for everyone now and for future generations. Wherever you're working as a locum, there will be ways greater sustainable practices can be introduced.

The impact of hospitals on their surroundings is significant. They are large sites that facilitate a wide range of activities, attracting many visitors and using vast amounts of resources.

The impact of smaller health facilities on their surroundings is proportionally less. Smaller facilities are generally used for primary or intermediate care. However, they are still using resources and generating clinical and other waste.

NHS trusts in England and Wales alone generate around 100,000 tonnes of clinical waste every year, according to data from the Department of Transport Environment and the Regions. An additional 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes of waste are generated by other sources, including dentists, GPs, nursing homes and the private sector.

How to suggest sustainable practices at work

During the course of your day-to-day duties, always be on the lookout for ways of working in a more sustainable way. The health service aims to incorporate sustainable development into every aspect of its management and other processes.

Healthcare providers are typically happy to hear suggestions for reducing their carbon footprint. They are tasked with considering sustainable development at the strategic, design, planning, construction and operational stages of every facility.

Sustainability appraisal and management systems are being used to ensure all environmental issues are addressed in an integrated manner.

The sustainability criteria cover accessibility, transport, water efficiency, energy efficiency, waste management, technology, procuring goods and services and integrating with the local community and other services.

As a locum working at the heart of healthcare, you are ideally placed to recognise where better sustainable practices can be introduced.

Carry out your own environmental audit with a fresh pair of eyes and assess how things are done. Make notes of how energy savings might be made, or how resources could be used more efficiently.

Even small things - such as not turning off lights or unplugging equipment (which can be unplugged without causing risk or danger!) in rooms that aren't in use - can make a difference.

You could also become a recycling champion, making sure the waste is always thrown in the correct bin, even in the busy and stressful environment of a clinic or hospital.

Recent figures from the NHS reveal it's still sending about 15% of its waste to landfill. Consider recycling ideas that can help healthcare providers to recycle or reuse more materials.

When it comes to transport, promote the benefits of car-sharing and make sure you personally do your best to travel to and from work in a sustainable fashion. You may be a cyclist yourself, so encourage colleagues to try coming to work on a bike if the local road network is suitable.

How important is the healthcare sector to sustainability?

Sustainability objectives are incorporated into all areas of government policy. This is reflected in the Department of Health's three White Papers, Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation, The New NHS: Modern and Dependable and A Better Quality of Life.

The population's health is a key component of sustainable development in Britain. The World Health Organisation also supports this view. The health service plays a vital role in ensuring nationwide progress towards sustainability.

As well as treating the sick, healthcare providers are responsible for enhancing people's wellbeing, such as minimising environmental harm from pollution and promoting a healthier way of life.

Increasing sustainability includes setting an example of healthy working environments, or promoting links between the community and the health service.

The health service estate comprises sites of widely differing sizes and ages that have a considerable impact on their surroundings.

As an example, energy consumption in hospitals in England alone results in annual emissions of around 7.5 million tonnes of CO2, according to the Building Research Energy Conservation Support Unit's report, Energy Efficiency in Hospitals: Condensing Gas Boilers.

The sustainability impacts of the health sector relate to the various sites' construction, location, operations and relationships with suppliers and other local services.

There are around 11,000 general practices in the UK and if every one of them made even a small performance improvement, as a whole, this could have major benefits for the environment.

According to DETR, as public health improves, people can make a real contribution to the economy and the nation's prosperity. Good health is as important to sustaining sustainable economic growth as it is to each individual person.

Register with Globe Locums to gain access to a range of fantastic locum jobs UK-wide. As one of the nation's leading healthcare recruitment agencies, we'll help you find a job that fits your own individual needs.

When you're ready to take the next step on your career ladder, check out the latest locum opportunities on our site to find the right fit.

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