The climate emergency is a health emergency - this is why the HCV Partnership recognises the need to tackle our health and care sector’s impact on the climate head-on

Alexis Percival, Climate Change Lead, Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership

Hi, I am Alexis Percival, the newly appointed Climate Change Lead for the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership.

I am also the Environmental and Sustainability Manager for Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust. I sit on the Leeds Climate Commission and work closely with the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership on their climate ambitions and work with the Health Declares Network to work with clinicians across the UK to drive them to understand the importance of tackling the climate emergency.

I am committed to helping the integrated care systems reduce carbon emissions as well as prepare for the uncertain future that we face through climate change.

Over the next few months, I will be working with colleagues across the Partnership to develop the Humber, Coast and Vale climate change vision statement and green plan, which will outline our decarbonisation plans within our region’s health and care sector.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the climate emergency is a health emergency. As a health system we are having to respond now, and will increasingly in the future, to more heatwaves, more flooding, more vector carrying diseases and more pandemics.

The NHS contributes to about 5% of the UK’s carbon emissions. Between 5% and 7% of all road traffic is NHS orientated and around 7% of the UK’s healthcare estate is located in flood plains or is at risk from sea inundation in the next 30-50 years.   The Humber, Coast and Vale area is likely to be inundated with a sea level rise of between one and three metres by the end of 2100. We are already seeing an increase in the number of people suffering with climate anxiety and mental health issues associated with flooding across the region

This is why the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership recognises the need to tackle our health and care sector’s impact on the climate head-on.

The decarbonisation challenge ahead of us is enormous and it will take all of us in the health system to engage with this agenda.

The Greener NHS agenda was unveiled by the NHS in October 2020, identifying a rapid path for the NHS to decarbonise, working to achieve net zero emissions by 2040 for the NHS carbon footprint (emissions under NHS direct control) and net zero for the NHS carbon footprint plus (which includes the wider supply chain) by 2045.

In order to achieve this, we need to change our models of care, our estate, fleet and operations, our supply chain and ultimately our patient care in order to achieve zero emissions in the timescales.

Through partnership working we have established our baseline carbon footprint so we understand the scale of the task.  We will be working with all of our partners to drive down emissions and look at opportunities for funding, education and partnership knowledge sharing.

In the coming weeks the HCV Partnership will be hosting a series of lunchtime webinars to discuss the climate change challenges we face in the health and care sector and how we can address these by making big and little changes in our health system and our workplaces.

2021 is the year of action with plans being developed to decarbonise across the world.  From COP26 (2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference) to Humber, Coast and Vale, we can all take action.

Leo Stevens

Author Leo Stevens

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