Healthcare professionals call for action with sustainable greener prescribing

Today the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scotland hosted a virtual roundtable event, discussing how to further promote sustainable prescribing with medical and prescribing professionals. We were also pleased to have support from the Scottish Government with the CMO Professor Sir Gregor Smith speaking.

Last year, RCGP and RPS held the first roundtable on this topic, which resulted in the production of a joint statement on reducing environmental and climate harms from medicines and prescribing. 

Medicines account for around 25% of carbon emissions in the NHS. NHS Scotland has committed to becoming net zero by 2040 at the latest. If this target is to be met, then tangible actions from the health service need to happen. 

The statement calls for action to be taken around social prescribing, provision of consistent data on the environmental impact of medicines, education and training, wastage of medicines and packaging, and e-prescribing.  

Today’s event looked upon our progress across the professions, and towards how we can collaboratively work to build a better and more sustainable planet in the future. The roundtable’s key announcement was that the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) will launch a Short Life Working Group to develop an implementation strategy for sustainable prescribing guidelines, which will be chaired by RCGP Scotland Clinician Representative for Climate and Sustainability, Dr James Morton.

Commenting on the publication of the joint statement, Dr David Shackles, Joint Chair of RCGP Scotland said: 

“Today’s roundtable demonstrates a real appetite and energy from clinicians and prescribers looking for innovative steps towards sustainability. 

“Our speakers and attendees brought a variety of perspectives on change - from decision-making at the top of government, academia forging new paths, and clinicians making incremental changes in their daily work. 

“It was fantastic to hear the announcement that SIGN will start work on an evidence-based approach to delivering sustainable prescribing guidelines, chaired by RCGP Scotland Clinician Representative for Climate and Sustainability, Dr James Morton. 

“Working collaboratively is the only way to achieve a net zero NHS by 2040. 

Our health is inextricably linked to the health of the planet – so we strive to embed green principles and actions into high quality patient care.”

Laura Wilson, RPS Director for Scotland, said: 

“If Scotland’s NHS is to achieve net zero, it is absolutely vital that medicines are used more sustainably.  I’m extremely proud of the role RPS Scotland is playing with our partners in leading the way to achieving net zero across healthcare; and it was fantastic to be able to bring together so many health professional leadership bodies today who are committed to this agenda, together with Scottish Government.

“Change is never easy.  However, by working together, we can achieve so much more than we can achieve alone.  Our commitment to greener prescribing is unwavering, and it’s fantastic to have the support of Scottish Government as we progress this bold agenda.”

Notes to editor

RCGP Scotland represents a network of around 5,000 doctors in Scotland aiming to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standard of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on resources, education, training, research, and clinical standards.

RPS is the professional body for pharmacists and pharmacy across all sectors in Scotland, England, and Wales.

Media requests to Anita Azavedo, Policy and Public Relations Officer RCGP Scotland.

Tel: 07808 795493