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Exploring Cornwall: Sustainability At The Centre Of Healthcare

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Last month, the NHS in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly officially declared a climate emergency, joining forces with Cornwall Council in their commitment to become net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Representatives across health and care in Cornwall – NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) and Cornwall Partnership Foundation NHS Trust (CFT) – made this promise despite, or perhaps because of, the current pandemic. In the words of Thom Lafferty, director of strategy and performance at RCHT:

The need to address climate change has unified all health commissioners and providers in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. We have learnt, through our response to the COVID-19 pandemic that we are stronger together and we are all inspired by this.

Together, the NHS Trusts in Cornwall had already taken steps towards their ultimate goal of net-zero by 2030 by, for example, sharing onsite energy generation systems; participating in a national trial into using reusable face masks and clinical gowns; recycling face masks and piloting the reuse of anaesthetic gases.

The entire NHS currently accounts for approximately 4% of all UK carbon emissions and NHS England has announced plans to cut emissions nationwide and become the ‘world’s first carbon net-zero national health system’ by 2040. As NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens acknowledged:

2020 has been dominated by COVID-19 and is the most pressing health emergency facing us. But undoubtedly climate change poses the most profound long-term threat to the health of the nation. It is not enough for the NHS to treat the problems caused by air pollution and climate change – from asthma to heart attacks and strokes – we need to play our part in tackling them at source.

The NHS commitment to ending its contribution to the climate emergency sends a vital signal of the need for all of us to do things very differently from now on – no matter how pressing other immediate circumstances. In setting the target of net-zero by 2030, the NHS in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has not only recognised the threat faced to public health as a result of climate change but also the opportunity for health and care to lead the way to a greener, safer planet.

Carbon Copy launched the UK Carbon Zero Explorer in November 2020 to help people to discover what’s happening in their local area. Councils, public sector organisations and businesses all around the UK are putting plans in place to reach carbon zero sooner – if there’s a story you think we should be telling please contact us.

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