The importance of ESG targets in healthcare
The National Health Service is a vital part of British infrastructure, helping keep millions of people fit and well all over the country. However, the size and scale of the NHS’s operations means that its environmental footprint is significant: indeed, it contributes 4% of all the carbon emissions in the UK.
A sizeable proportion of these emissions are from the NHS’s day-to-day operations, such as its vehicle fleet and the electricity needed to power its facilities. However, the majority of the emissions come from indirect sources across its supply chains, such as production, food, equipment and so on.
It’s therefore paramount that the NHS takes all practical steps to reduce its carbon emissions. This is not only to play its part within the UK Government’s drive towards Net Zero, but because increased emissions and air pollution can lead to increased rates of heart disease, strokes and lung cancer, putting pressure on NHS service delivery as a result.
Why ESG targets are so important in healthcare
The NHS has responded to the need for greener operations by establishing a strategy towards reaching Net Zero, with the aspiration of becoming the first net-zero national health service in the world. Within this commitment, there are two main targets:
The first relates to directly controllable emissions, known as the NHS Carbon Footprint: the aim is to achieve an 80% reduction by 2028-2032, and reach Net Zero by 2040. The second concerns indirect emissions that the NHS can influence, a scope that has been termed NHS Carbon Footprint Plus: with the aim of achieving an 80% reduction by 2036-2039 and getting to Net Zero by 2045.
These ambitious goals will require many changes in the way the NHS operates. However, the importance of the NHS’s day-to-day activities in saving lives and safeguarding public health means these changes have to be made with minimal operational disruption. As a result, efficiencies away from frontline care are potentially easier to explore.
Using sustainable processes to improve efficiency in healthcare
One of the areas where these efficiencies can be found is in IT. As healthcare becomes more digitally-driven, from analysis of health data to coordination of patient records, the emissions burden of power, paper documents and IT asset production can become substantial. There are a number of places where improvements can be made in healthcare IT to make it more sustainable:
- Energy-efficient technology: while there can be cost efficiencies of running older equipment, they are generally less efficient in energy use compared to newer models with more advanced technologies. Refreshing IT assets can therefore substantially reduce energy requirements, as can digitising many processes that would normally be done on paper (e.g. ward wall charts, leaflets and consent forms)
- On-site scanning: the theme of digitisation can be taken even further to encompass medical records. This reduces the emissions implications of paper and print use, and saves vital space as filing cabinets can be eliminated. It also enables integrated care through common access to data, for example when patients move from one department to another
- Improved monitoring: accessing real-time data on the energy use and emissions of a building can help trusts understand where improvements can be found. This can be achieved through a service platform and dashboard, collating all business processes into a single view. This can include parameters as diverse as anaesthetics, building energy use, lighting and air conditioning
How healthcare can benefit from sustainable IT
With more sustainable approaches to IT, NHS trusts will be better-placed to meet their Net Zero responsibilities. Not only will they be able to do so without compromising operations or care delivery, but they should be able to drive new benefits such as:
- More efficient supply chains: with more digitisation through different points of the supply chain, any inefficiencies or problems can be identified and eradicated, so that asset use and care delivery can be faster, more focused and more consistent
- Increased compliance: digital documents enable a full and transparent audit trail to be established to demonstrate compliance, greater security and well-established user controls and permissions
- Better communication: a more integrated approach to data and systems, driven by digital records rather than paper trails, makes it faster, cheaper, and more sustainable to coordinate contact and care across departments and trust
SCC’s Document Services, supported by years of experience working with the healthcare sector, makes us your perfect partner for achieving more sustainable IT.