Environmentally sustainable healthcare in Essex

25 November 2020

In October 2020, the NHS committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2040 and together with my fellow faculty leads I am excited about supporting primary care to reduce its carbon footprint!

So what does the climate emergency have to do with health? 

Take a look at these short videos form the Lancet commission and WHO for an excellent brief explanation. So what can you do?

Essex & Suffolk GP Sustainability Network

Earlier this year I set up a GP Sustainability Network in North East Essex where I am based. This is a group of GPs and other primary care staff who meet monthly to share ideas support each other in making our practices ‘greener’.

I am keen to expand this to the rest of Essex so send me an email to be added to our mailing list and hear about our meetings.

Green Impact for health

This is an initiative run jointly by the RCGP and NUS (National Union of Students). It is a step-by-step guide for GP surgeries looking to reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainable healthcare. It is open to all, not just RCGP members and many of the changes help practices save money too!  It would be great to get all the practices in Essex using the toolkit, even if we all just achieve a few of the steps.


Prescribing accounts for around 65% of primary care’s carbon footprint. Deprescribing, encouraging self-care and non-drug management of illness can all help. A major contributor is metered dose inhalers (MDI) as these contain greenhouse gases. As GPs we can take a positive step for the climate by prescribing environmentally-friendly dry powder inhalers (DPI) instead. NICE has produced a patient decision aid  and the Green inhaler website provides a helpful comparison of different inhalers. Take a look at Open Prescribing to see how your practice/PCN compares to others in terms of DPI/MDI prescribing. 

For a greener NHS

The NHS employs 1.3 million staff, so small steps taken by many people can collectively have a big difference. So even if you do nothing else, how about swapping your single-use plastic water bottle for a reusable one, switch off your computer/printer overnight or ensure all your printing is double-sided? 

Post written by

Vasandhara Thoroughgood

Climate & Sustainability Lead

RCGP Essex

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