Green Impact for Health scheme
Dr Terry Kemple and Dr Charlie Kenward
Dr Terry Kemple, RCGP President and GP in Bristol, and Dr Charlie Kenward, a sessional GP in London, explain 100 good ways you can make your general practice brighter and greener (without turning all the lights off).
My practice has struggled for years knowing what are the best ways to make our practice more environmentally friendly. We’ve tried to gradually become a bit greener but have felt overwhelmed by the task. Now there is an easy solution.
The Green Impact for Health project has been developed for General Practice by the National Union of Students, GPs, trainees, and medical students. It’s supported by University of Bristol, NHS Health Education South West and the Severn Faculty of the RCGP. The web-based scheme is designed to improve the environmental performance of general practice while saving money and ensuring that the way we provide our services offers the greatest benefit to society as a whole.
The motivation behind the project was a response to increasing awareness of the relationship between health, the environment and the impact that the provision of healthcare can have on the environment and wider society (Bma.org.uk, 2015) (NHS Sustainable Development Unit, 2015) (Costello, Grant and Horton, 2008). It has also been well demonstrated that actions to improve health and the environment are often synergistic such as active transport or diets (Schroeder et al., 2013).
The project was based on the highly successful Green Impact scheme run by NUS in over 400 organisations including universities, hospitals and dental surgeries. It works by guiding staff through a set of pro-sustainability actions, each of which earn points towards an overall award; bronze, silver or gold. Each action has a rationale or evidence base, and most have advice on the easiest ways to achieve them. The practice uploads the evidence to show that they are meeting the criteria for the scheme and there is a light tough external validation of the evidence.
A few examples are:
- Encouraging the use of social prescribing
- Referring patients at risk of fuel poverty for support and advice
- Reducing office waste e.g. though consistent double-sided printing
- Facilitating the use of the GSK Inhaler Recycling Scheme
- Having a policy in place to facilitate GPs wishing to cycle to home visits
- Encouraging the use of BMJ e-learning on Climate Change and Health
The scheme has actions for practices at all stages of engagement with sustainability. It gives credit to teams for work already being done and encourages them to do more. Every practice that completes the actions and criteria and submits by the summer deadline will receive a Green Impact for Health certificate; and practices can gain either bronze, silver or gold awards depending on how many points they receive for the evidence they have submitted.
During our pilot scheme in Spring 2015 six practices completed 244 sustainability actions, and 2 achieved the bronze award in just 8 weeks. A before and after survey showed a shift in staff attitudes towards pro-sustainability that could be attributed to the project. It was estimated that savings of up to £4,713 and 20 tonnes of carbon per year were saved simply from turning off equipment and printing double-sided. Feedback from a focus group and participant interviews found that the web-based interface was intuitive and easy to use and the project encouraged good team development within practices.
From autumn 2015 until May 2016 with the Award ceremony on 10 June 2016 at Bristol Zoo we are recruiting and running the Green Impact for Health scheme in 20 new practices mostly in Bristol and the South West and repeating the scheme in the 6 pilot practices (so they can move up to the next level), and planning to extend it nationally in 2016/7. Even if you don’t want to join the accreditation scheme the website and its sustainability criteria will become the hub for ‘how to get greener in general practice’.
To find out more and view the toolkit, please visit the Green Impact for Health website and click on ‘help’ which will explain how the scheme works.
Costello, A., Grant, M. and Horton, R. (2008). The Lancet–UCL Commission: health effects of climate change. The Lancet, 371(9619), pp.1145-1147.
Schroeder, K., Thompson, T., Frith, K. and Pencheon, D. (2013). Sustainable healthcare. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, Chapter 6.