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In June 2019, Newcastle Hospitals became the first healthcare organisation in the world to declare a climate emergency

Newcastle midwife features in greener healthcare photography exhibition at COP26


NHS England has unveiled a new photography exhibition, “Care for the future: delivering the world’s first net zero health service,” at COP26 – the United Nations Conference of the Parties.

A midwife from Newcastle Hospitals – the first healthcare organisation in the world to declare a climate emergency – will be featured in the exhibition at the climate action event COP26 this week.

In June 2019, Newcastle Hospitals became the first healthcare organisation in the world to declare a climate emergency, recognising the threat that climate breakdown poses to public health, and committing to becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

As part of the work to address our environment impact, in September this year, Newcastle mum Kaja Gersinska has became the first person in the UK to use climate-friendly pain relief after giving birth at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

Entonox, also known as gas and air, is a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen and has been used to provide pain relief for women in labour for over a hundred years.

However, nitrous oxide is a powerful greenhouse gas, almost 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and escapes into the atmosphere after being exhaled by a patient.

With up to eight million litres of gas and air used each year at Newcastle Hospitals, rolling out this innovative technology offers the potential to reduce emissions, one birth at a time.

The Trust’s Associate Director – Sustainability, James Dixon, said: “We’ve made significant progress in reducing the environmental impact of our anaesthetic care pathways in recent years, with a 23% reduction in anaesthetic gas carbon emissions last year alone.

“All of this has been led by clinicians who are passionate about planetary, as well as patient, health. Our use of Entonox (gas and air) is by far the biggest contributor to our anaesthetic gas carbon footprint and in adopting this innovative technology we will see thousands of tonnes of carbon saved (or the equivalent annual carbon emissions of 150 UK citizens).”

“This is just one example of how we are embedding sustainability into our healthcare services, working hard to empower staff to make sustainable choices for the benefit of our patients and the planet.”

Bethany, a Midwife, is part of the Newcastle Birthing Centre team that supported the UK’s first mother to give birth using climate-friendly pain relief during labour, added: “For mums that are giving birth now, climate change is clearly a big issue and we want to do all we can now to do better.”

Newcastle Hospitals is well known for its award winning Shine (Sustainable Healthcare in Newcastle) programme and was the first healthcare organisation in the world to declare a climate emergency, in recognition that the climate emergency is a health emergency. The Trust is also committed to the ambitious goal of becoming a net-zero carbon organisation by 2030.

Newcastle Hospitals has already introduced a range of actions to address the environmental impact in our eight key areas. Some of these actions and achievements include:

  • Chief Executive, Dame Jackie Daniel, is part of the NHS Net Zero Carbon Expert Panel bringing together system leaders from across the NHS to build, develop and share best practice for a net zero NHS.
  • Removing over 3,000 patient journeys a month to hospital dispensaries (approximately 100,000 patient & visitor miles a month) by creating a pharmacy delivery hub as part of the COVID-19 response.
  • A 5% decrease in emissions related to our ‘Newcastle Hospitals Carbon Footprint’, compared to 2019/20.
  • In the last year we have undertaken 30% of outpatient appointments remotely (virtual/telephone). This has been estimated to save 7 million patient journey miles and almost 2000 tonnes of carbon.
  • We launched a Climate Emergency Action Fund to support staff led projects.
  • We have committed to Passivhaus design & BREEAM Outstanding in new buildings.
  • We recycled 47% of non-clinical waste.
  • We established the Shelford Sustainability Leads Group to share best practice and collaborate on projects with a national reach.
  • The carbon footprint for all travel included in the Newcastle Hospitals Carbon Footprint Plus boundary has decreased 25% from 2019/20.
  • Almost 1000 members of staff signed up to Shine Rewards and completed 15000 sustainable actions in 6 months.

You can find out more about Newcastle Hospitals long-term goals and priority actions for the next five years set out in our Climate Emergency Strategy.

In October 2020, the NHS became the world’s first health system to commit to reaching carbon net zero, in response to the profound and growing threat to health posed by climate change.

The exhibition will be on display in the Blue Zone of the COP26 venue in Glasgow, for the duration of the conference [31st October – 12th November], before it will move on to Newcastle NHS Hospital Trust in December, and on to other NHS Trusts across the country over the course of 2022.

The full exhibition and stories can be accessed digitally on the Greener NHS website

To find out more about this exhibition, please contact:

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