ICSs and trusts are being encouraged to find ‘quick wins’ and ‘low-hanging fruit’ for reducing carbon emissions
“The danger would have been the other way around – that you say ‘take an extra year to figure out [your strategies]’… the plans are a little bit better, but we’ve wasted a year and the world’s on fire.” Nick Watts, chief sustainability officer, NHS England
Integrated care systems (ICSs) with the “best ideas” for becoming environmentally sustainable will receive national funding, Nick Watts, the chief sustainability officer at NHS England, has told HSJ.
NHS trusts must complete their net zero strategies by mid-January, while ICSs will have until March to create system-wide strategies. He said that his team were working on a reporting method to make trusts’ carbon reductions comparable. This would involve a quarterly data collection from trusts and regions which NHS England would use to calculate the carbon footprint of each organisation and area.
He acknowledged, however, that counting carbon is “complex.” Trusts may find accepting NHS England’s methodology for reporting comparable progress across the NHS “a little uncomfortable”, as organisations count carbon reduction in different ways, he said: “We will draw the individual pieces of data in from collection points…and this method hopefully gives us one unified way of saying ‘that’s the carbon number. I think it’s the only way we can do it when we’re trying to bring an entirely new form of accounting to something as complex as the NHS.”
Although the timelines were tight, Watts said, he believed this would encourage local leaders to find the “quick wins” and “low-hanging fruit”. He added: “The danger would have been the other way around – that you say ‘take an extra year to figure out [your strategies]’… the plans are a little bit better, but we’ve wasted a year and the world’s on fire.”
Once the strategies are ready, they will be sent to NHS England’s sustainability team to undergo two levels of peer review and “supportive assurance” with regions. “We want this to happen within the regions because they understand their localities best… and we’ll shape out the ideas there and have friendly competition between the ICSs,” Watts said.
Every local strategy would be revisited annually, Watts added, but not rewritten because that would be “death by strategy.” He said that small grants would be given to the best ideas to be implemented and scaled across the NHS if successful.
The NHS plans to achieve carbon net zero by 2040, and Sajid Javid has said he wants climate issues to be a “key consideration” in the forthcoming review of the NHS constitution.