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GPs - how to become a local 'green champion'

New guidance sets out how GPs can lead from the front in the climate change battle

OnMedica Staff

Monday, 07 April 2008

Doctors must become local "green champions" adopting work and lifestyle policies to reduce energy consumption and cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to new guidance from the Department of Health.

It asks doctors to take the lead in battling climate change by having their own carbon audit and adopting simple measures such as helping create a greener local environment, drinking tap water, walking or cycling and switching to energy saving power sources.

The guidance is launched today as doctors, representatives of Royal Medical Colleges and scientists gathered  for a major conference to ask what the NHS and health professionals are doing to tackle climate change.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organisation, has identified the health impacts of climate change as the key public health issue for this century. Leadership from health professionals is fundamental to tackling this effectively.

The meeting at the British Medical Association in London is timed to coincide with the launch of the WHO campaign to tackle climate change and will show how health professionals in the UK are addressing this issue.

Speakers will include Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians, Patricia Hamilton, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and leading journal editors.

The DoH guidance, Health Impact of Climate Change; promoting sustainable communities, encourages doctors to take a local and national lead on adopting energy efficient lifestyles and policies. The Health Impact of Climate Change; promoting sustainable communities says GP surgeries and hospitals should start getting organised locally by identifying a "Carbon Champion" and supporting the adoption of Local Area Agreements that help reduce carbon emissions.  

GP principals should measure the practice's current carbon footprint by linking with the Carbon Trust’s NHS Carbon Management Programme.  They can then Identify practical energy efficiency measures based on audit findings and set a target for reducing carbon emissions related to the Climate Change Bill, which aims for a 60% cut by 2050.

It also suggests GPs can save money and increase efficiency by adjusting heating controls, upgrading light fittings, using energy efficient bulbs and switching off computer monitors and lights when not in use.

And it advises signing energy contracts with 100% renewable energy providers; considering technology to increase renewable energy use such as solar power or wind turbines; maximising roof, wall and draft insulation in order to reduce fuel use; and considering electricity and heat generation through Combined Heat and Power (CHP) installations.

Other recommendations include:

  • to reduce water consumption and flooding, use tap designs and flushes that minimise water consumption
  • encourage drinking of tap water
  • promote Travel Plans and transport policy that encourage public or active transport
  • ncrease the use of "virtual" meetings and teleconferencing
  • encourage train use versus flying
  • at meetings provide food that is locally sourced to cut down on food miles with "healthier, fresh, seasonal menus; increase vegetable to meat protein ratio and reduce use of processed foods" 
  • promote sustainable housing and the built environment by encouraging healthcare buildings to be built with green spaces which provide healing views, assist in cooling and in flood run off.

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