What can GPs do to reduce the carbon footprint of healthcare?

The climate crisis is a health crisis, it is affecting us here and now. As the global temperature rises, we will see increasing effects on our weather patterns such as flooding and heatwaves. As healthcare professionals it is essential that we do everything we can to reduce the carbon footprint of healthcare. The NHS has a footprint of 5% of the total UK footprint and has committed to be carbon neutral by 2040. In addition, we need to help our patients become healthier which will reduce the impacts of climate change on their health.

What can you do?

  1. Sign up to the RCGP Green impact for health toolkit - a great way to get the whole practice on board.
  2. Check out the Greener Practice website - a great resource for everything sustainable in Primary care including resources for patients.
  3. Use the asthma toolkit to help improve asthma care for your patients and enable switches to dry powder inhalers which cause far less damage to the environment.
  4. Get active - cycle or walk to work, encourage staff to do the same (maybe align shifts to enable some car sharing), and share your enthusiasm with your patients. Sign up to the cycle to work scheme.
  5. Eat a whole food mainly plant based diet " eat real food, not too much and mainly plants" is a great mantra. Share with patients that this will reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. Listen to the Eco Medics podcast by Dr Shireen Kassam, Plant-based nutrition for human and planetary health.
  6. Switch your banking to an ethical bank. The high street banks all bankroll the fossil fuel industry - switching to an ethical bank not only reduces this funding but is a positive action for good. Check out Ethical Consumer for more information.
  7. Calculate your practice carbon footprint using the calculator
  8. Switch to a renewable energy company.
  9. Join the tribe, connect with other healthcare professionals working in sustainability.

About the writer

By Dr Katherine Brown, Tamar Faculty Climate Lead