In the UK, surgical care is responsible for the equivalent of about 5.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year – equivalent to that from heat, electricity, transport and waste of 700,000 UK homes.
Reducing the emissions produced during surgery would be a significant step towards the NHS achieving its aim to be net zero by 2045. The report shows that solutions are available and in many cases could result in better options for patients while at the same time costing the NHS less.
Reducing and reusing products used in surgery, shutdown checklists for operating rooms to save energy when they are not in use, switching to less harmful anaesthetics, and surgeons and patients working together to optimise their treatment are all highlighted as ways in which carbon emissions could be reduced.
This landmark report highlights a number of successful initiatives that have already been implemented. For example, a team at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust successfully reduced both carbon dioxide emissions and cost by switching from general to local anaesthesia for some procedures, and from disposable to reusable surgical gowns.
The report, which involved collaboration across multiple organisations involved in different aspects of surgical care, was produced by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, Brighton and Sussex Medical School and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare.