NHS ambulances 'must go green'

Author: Mark Gould
NHS ambulances 'must go green'

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has challenged vehicle manufacturers to help “blue lights go green” and cut air pollution by developing more environmentally friendly ambulances.

The NHS accounts for almost 10 billion journeys each year – around 3.5% of all road travel – as staff and patients travel to work and appointments and medical supplies are delivered.

With polluted air causing cancer, lung disease and heart problems and contributing to around 40,000 deaths each year, Mr Stevens pledged that the health service will step up action to tackle the issue at source as well as treating those affected.

The NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) has committed to cutting mileage and air pollution from rapid response vehicles, patient transport and staff journeys by a fifth by 2024 and ensuring nine out of 10 vehicles are low emission within a decade.

The plan also sets out how the NHS will use technology to make 30 million outpatient appointments redundant, sparing patients unnecessary trips to and from hospital.

Speaking ahead of a clean air summit in London, Mr Stevens said: “Air pollution is one of our great but under-recognised health challenges, and the NHS can help tackle the causes as well as the consequences, which evidence suggests hits the most vulnerable hardest.

“Thanks to the commitment and ingenuity of NHS staff, we’ve already made big steps in greening the health service, with carbon emissions down by around a fifth over the last decade.

“The NHS Long Term Plan has set out our blueprint for a successful and sustainable health service fit for the future, and now we want ambulance manufacturers to help by developing more environmentally friendly vehicles – helping our blue lights to ‘go green’.

“This will also help ensure extra investment in the NHS is well spent by reducing the economic impact of air pollution on the health service, bringing benefits for taxpayers as well as our patients.”

An estimated one in three people live in areas with dangerously high levels of air pollution. More than 2,000 GP practices and 200 hospitals in England are in areas affected by toxic air.

A recent report from NHS England and Public Health England, Reducing the use of natural resources in health and social care, showed the strides the NHS has made in becoming more efficient and sustainable.

More than four fifths of waste from hospitals, ambulance services, community organisations and other NHS providers is already diverted away from going directly to landfill – with over a fifth of this recycled or recovered to make new products.