NHS Supply Chain tackling environmental impact

NHS Supply Chain examine tackling the NHS’ environmental impact by changing supply chain operations, and the organisation’s Sustainable Development Strategy

October 2021 marked one year on from the NHS becoming the world’s first national health system committing to become ‘carbon net zero’ by 2045.

With COP26 taking place this year, we have acknowledged how we need to work with all our stakeholders to raise awareness of the relationship between health and climate change, the NHS Net Zero ambition, and its alignment with core-purpose activity – the improvement of health now and for future generations.

Working alongside all our NHS partners, we are keen to build understanding among the workforce of how greener measures are improving patient care today and saving money, as well as reducing carbon emissions – and therefore improving health now and in the future.

Andrew New, NHS Supply Chain CEO, says: “As NHS Supply Chain, we are trusted by our stakeholders to deliver clinically assured, value for money products that meet the needs of our NHS colleagues and patients. We deliver a critical service every day to the NHS and we have a responsibility to deliver this sustainably and with the upmost consideration to the impact on the environment. In line with the wider NHS mission to be carbon neutral by 2040, we are working with our suppliers, service providers and trusts to optimise our impact both today and for the future.”

During the recent Net Zero Health and Care Committee in October 2021, NHS Supply Chain committed to specific actions that we will take to deliver Net Zero. This pledge to achieving Net Zero acknowledges our collective support and action across the health and care sector.

Our commitments are as follows:

•    NHS Supply chain will promote and champion hybrid working, using technology as our standard solution for working with all stakeholders
•    NHS Supply chain will reduce our direct CO2 emissions, eliminate single use plastics (where possible) and reduce all packaging used in our operations.
•    NHS Supply chain will champion the supply of environmentally sustainable products and services to the NHS, including these requirements in all future tenders.

Our Sustainable Development Strategy
Our Sustainable Development Strategy – ‘Delivering health sustainably’ –captures our commitment to operating as a compliant and responsible business, but our ambition to arm trusts with sustainable initiatives aligned with the targets set out in the Net Zero Report.

At the heart of our strategy are four strategic pillars:

•    Human Rights and Labour Standards
•    Waste and the Circular Economy
•    Plastic Products and Packaging
•    Climate Change, Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in our own Operations.

Our Sustainable priority ensures we support NHS sustainability goals. NHS Supply Chain has a unique role in supporting the NHS’s objective of becoming the world’s first net carbon zero health system. By delivering wholesale sustainability initiatives, we can deliver on behalf of all NHS trusts across the country that work with us.

Our sustainability strategy reflects our ongoing support for sustainability, and focusses on four pillars of activity:

•    Reducing single-use plastics
•    Supporting the circular economy
•    Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions
•    Improving human rights and labour standards including our commitment to social responsibility

Making changes, making a difference
Becoming the world’s first carbon net zero national health system by 2040 will require big changes for the NHS and for NHS Supply Chain. So, what will a greener NHS look like and how can NHS Supply Chain support trusts to deliver on this ambition?

To drive better health outcomes and create economic, social and environmental value for our stakeholders, NHS Supply Chain is committed to leveraging the strength of its people and operations to deliver health sustainably.

We are proud to share some examples of what we’ve been doing to make a difference.

1. One ton of plastic saved across the North West
NHS Supply Chain has backed the NHS pledge, launched in October 2020 to dramatically cut the amount of single-use plastic (SUP) across the NHS. Since them our teams have been working hard to procure items that support trusts in reaching their sustainability goals as well as contributing to the greener NHS agenda. Over the last three months several North West trusts, from three Integrated Care Systems; Greater Manchester Health & Social Care, Cheshire & Merseyside, North Cumbria and Lancashire & South Cumbria; have saved a ton of plastic, the equivalent of four dolphins.

How did they do it? Our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) team in the North West have raised awareness, provided analysis, insight and encouragement to trusts to use the Catering Consumables and Equipment framework. The framework provides 99 sustainable single-use plastic alternatives for the NHS to purchase and trusts have been able to swap plastic cutlery for bamboo alternatives.

“This small change in behaviour has led to the removal of one ton of plastic from the supply chain in three months. This is really encouraging news that these simple changes can quickly impact on our sustainability goals. During 2019 – 2020 the NHS bought 184 tonnes of Plastic Catering Consumables, it’s fantastic that we can now offer the NHS a proactive alternative to these single use plastics.” Gareth Harvey, Regional Lead – North.

2. New Sustainable Fleet servicing NHS trusts across England
With our Logistics supplier, Unipart Logistics, we are transforming our fleet for a more sustainable future, whilst also delivering financial savings and with continued assurance on reliability and quality. In the first phase of this far-reaching programme, we have recently rolled out a new fleet of environmentally friendly vehicles that offer the lowest level of carbon emissions to date. The sustainable vehicles are the latest addition to NHS Supply Chain’s transport fleet, supporting a 200 strong final mile fleet delivering to NHS trusts.

The new fleet is operating with lower emissions, allowing a CO2 reduction of 2.1 tonnes per vehicle per year.

Additionally, the engines in the new fleet are HVO ready, which means they can run on Hydro treated vegetable oil in the future, which could reduce fleet emissions by as much as 80-90 per cent and reduce local air pollution. The switch to HVO is part of longer-term planning to meet our 2040 goals.

“We are evolving our entire fleet as part of our sustainability and carbon reduction commitments within Unipart, and as a provider to the NHS Supply Chain. The additional benefits of increasing fuel efficiency and having an HVO ready fleet, as well as introducing other safety specifications as standard truly demonstrates the ‘delivering value to the NHS’ brand on the fleet is more than just a logo.” Claire Salmon, Category Tower Director, NHS Supply Chain: Logistics (Unipart Logistics)

Logistics commitment to carbon neutral operations
Our logistics provider, Unipart, has signed up for the United Nations Race To Zero campaign as part of a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030 and net carbon zero by 2050. This is a global UN campaign that emphasises the critical importance of reaching science-based net-zero emissions as quickly as possible, and this will include NHS Supply Chain: Logistics activities.

Beyond our transport fleet, we have already started work with Unipart to reduce the carbon impact within our logistics warehouses, as well as futureproofing new sites, such as NHS Supply Chain Suffolk Park, which opened in May 2020 and was built to support our sustainability agenda, maximising the use of natural resources, including rain water.

Unipart has also worked with us to switch our sites to 100 per cent renewable electricity, and is currently looking at the latest technologies to reduce our gas consumption and switch to green gas in 2022, as well as installing LED lighting.

 3. Tower 5 Sanitary Products have a Green Range and Continence Products
More than 600 new washable and recycled continence products have been added to a national framework launched by NHS Supply Chain.

The full range of washable/reusable adult and children’s products are available in a choice of colours and styles. The recycled products are available across our range of procedure pads (formally known as underpads). The clinical and procurement teams within NHS Supply Chain: Rehabilitation, Disabled Services, Women’s Health and Associated Consumables, responded to customer feedback for more sustainable products when developing the framework.

“There has been a real push from our suppliers to go green, and coupled with what our customers are telling us, we are delighted to be able to add so many washable/reusable and recycled products to our framework. This is just one example of how NHS Supply Chain is supporting the NHS to be Carbon Net Zero by 2045. We are working with suppliers on some new and exciting ideas, including offering more eco-friendly, sustainable and biodegradable disposable products. Just some of the initiatives include suppliers using recycled ocean plastics, fully recyclable packaging and using innovative technology.” Lisa Charlesworth, Clinical Engagement and Implementation Manager

There are more than 2,000 products on the Disposable and Washable Continence Care and Associated Products framework, including 1,200 new products from new and incumbent suppliers. Disposable and washable continence products are used throughout the NHS in both acute hospital wards and for patients in their own home or a care home.

4. Sustainability Snapshots of How We Are Supporting the NHS
Over the last year we have launched several sustainable initiatives across our four strategic pillars which have already seen great results. Read on for some sustainability ideas that your trusts can take advantage of today. Speak with your local CRM for further information on any of the sustainable initiatives mentioned in this article.

•    Human rights and labour standards
We now have 500 suppliers who have signed up to our NQC portal. The great news for the NHS is they can now see sustainability data from these 500 suppliers for free! Saving you time and resource while creating your Green plans. Trusts can follow the easy steps on our Human Rights webpage to sign up and take advantage of the information available to your trust.

•    Climate change, energy and greenhouse gas emissions in our own operations
NCP (Nationally Contracted Products) During 2019 the NHS have already saved huge amounts of carbon by switching to our recycled copier paper, to put it into context CO2:- Saved is equivalent to 80,706.00 (eighty thousand, seven hundred and six) Round trips from London to Glasgow returns based on an average sized family car.

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