Ensuring that staff understand the urgency of the climate crisis and support our net zero programme is crucial if we want to be successful in reaching our goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2031. Our patients must be kept informed of changes and we must work closely with other NHS organisations, including NHS England, if we are to deliver a successful programme.  

To achieve this, we will:  

• Embed sustainability objectives into divisional governance structures 

• Promote smaller, but more visible, team-based projects  

• Ensure our staff and patients are kept informed of net zero progress, educated on sustainability matters, and know how they can get involved 

• Harness the people power of our Sustainability Champions Network 

 • Build sustainability into business-as-usual practices 

• Engage with stakeholders beyond our staff, including other NHS organisations. 


Nikki Sabey is the theatre service manager at Westmoreland Street Hospital. Nikki has been instrumental in supporting sustainable projects within her local team and has shared her story here:

Nikki Sabey.jpg"I wanted to talk a little about how I have been involved in supporting sustainability at UCLH and why it is important to me.  

One of my current responsibilities is finance and procurement. As you can imagine, theatres use a significant amount of single use items. Just looking at the amount of waste we were generating from procedures daily has spurred me on to consider how we could make our activity more sustainable.  

I have always been somebody who recycles or uses re-useable items at home and try to make ethical choices wherever I can. So I wanted to look at the procurement pathway to see how I could work that ethos into a clinical setting.  

First of all, I asked the waste management team to come and have a look at how we manage and recycle our theatre waste. We did a whole piece of work around that; making sure that the theatre team had the appropriate bags and bins so that we weren’t disposing of recyclable items incorrectly, and ensuring we were correctly disposing of clinical waste, as that in itself can be costly if mismanaged. Also, incineration creates high carbon emissions, so we wanted to minimise that where possible, if it was safe to do so. 

I have also started working closely with the UCLH sustainability team to see where we can switch high usage disposable items to more sustainable options.  

For example, a lot of the staff wear disposable warm up jackets in theatres as it can often be a cold environment to work in. If you think that there are eighty people in theatres every single day wearing disposable jackets that is a huge amount of waste. We are currently setting up a contract with a company that offers a reusable jacket that can be decontaminated and worn again. 

We have also launched a reusable theatre hat, to replace some of the PPE that we were throwing away. These hats are embroidered with staff names so that patients know who they are and what job role they do, which also improves their experience in theatres. Staff get a few hats and a mesh bag which they take home, wash, and bring back.  
There has been more work taking place with the anaesthetic team. We have significantly reduced some of the environmentally harmful gases that we use for anaesthetics by changing both the gas we use and how we administer anaesthetics. 

And we have been the first hospital in the whole of the UK to recycle suture foil packaging in theatres. Every suture comes in an external aluminium foil packet which is sterile inside. The suture used to be dropped out of the packaging onto the sterile operating field and the packaging was discarded in the bin. Now we have a specific waste programme where these foil packages are collected by the manufacturer (Johnson & Johnson) who then arrange for the aluminium to be repurposed into office furniture. 

All the progress we have made on sustainability has generated a lot of enthusiasm to look at more ways we can improve what we do. The theatre team at Westmoreland Street have real ownership of new projects and are rolling with new ways of doing things. All these small projects add up to something so much bigger, which is really important when we have such challenging targets to meet net zero by 2040 at UCLH."


Lyndsay Muirhead.jpgLyndsay Muirhead has been appointed as UCLH’s clinical sustainability project lead, after working as a neuroradiographer at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) since 2019.  

Lyndsay graduated as a diagnostic radiographer in 2017 and spent two years at St Mary's working in major trauma, before joining the NHNN. 

“Although I enjoyed my clinical practice and interacting with patients, eventually I started to feel like I couldn't make the impact that I wanted to,” said Lyndsay. “I am really interested in social inequality and how that impacts people's health, but as a radiographer I felt I saw such a small part of a patient’s health journey and I wanted to understand more.”  

Lyndsay began a master's degree in public health on a part-time basis just before the pandemic, while retaining her full-time role as a radiographer. COVID highlighted the impact that social inequality has on health and health outcomes and, as a result, strengthened her interest in this area. 

“I was looking for a role that would combine my interest in population health and climate change, as well as utilise my clinical experience, so when this job came up it was absolutely perfect” Lyndsay explained. “Having worked for UCLH for four years, I already knew it was a great trust to work for and that the culture allows you to feel really supported as a member of staff. I had also read a lot about the different initiatives that were going on across the trust to reduce carbon emissions, so I knew that sustainability was being taken seriously. 

“I recognise that the people who are in the most deprived parts of society are most heavily impacted by climate change. It has only been in the last couple of years that we are really recognising climate change is a health emergency, so sustainability in healthcare is not just a goodwill initiative or tick box exercise.  

“We know that there is a balance to be struck between the immediate care we provide, and the long-term repercussions of our current processes. We need to ensure that patients are receiving high quality care in a way that we can sustain well into the future without ultimately causing and contributing to more health issues.”   

Having already had experience working on the frontline, Lyndsay recognises that staff at UCLH are passionate about the care that they provide to their patients first and foremost, and, more than anything, want to make sure that any changes made as a trust also benefits their patients. 

"I know how common it is to have good intentions, passion, and interest, but when you're really in the thick of your day-to-day clinical work it's so hard to find the time. You want to get involved in these extra projects, but it can feel impossible,” she said.  

“I really want to make it as easy as possible for staff to engage in UCLH’s green strategy, while recognising that they all have limited time, limited resources, and if I am honest, limited energy. Our road to net zero is a joint venture and the best ideas always come from the ground, so it is really important to make sustainability as easy as possible and support staff that want do more. I want to make projects accessible and break them down into small, actionable pieces of work that anyone can take on for themselves within their department.” 

She also recognised the need to improve the visibility of the sustainability team. “Given the constraints on our own time, we are going to be more effective when staff can put a face to a name, so I intend to be a visible presence in the trust. I am keen to attend as many team meetings as possible.” 

Lyndsay also stressed that she wants patients to feel that they can also get involved in sharing their thoughts and asking questions about sustainability. “We want our patients to be reassured that everything we are doing is evidence-based, and that they are central to any decision we make,” said Lyndsay. “Patients are ultimately at the heart of our net zero journey.” 

Although there is a lot to do, Lyndsay isn’t daunted about the task ahead of her. “I’m very much looking forward to the journey ahead, and I would urge anyone interested in sustainability improvements to get in touch. I can’t wait to see what we can do together!” 

UCLH has reached the milestone of funding planting over 50,000 trees since switching its default search engine on work computers to Ecosia.

Ecosia is a free to use search engine that that uses around 80 per cent of its profits to fund tree planting projects around the world, with over 170 million trees planted so far. When UCLH switched to Ecosia on Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge in February 2022, it funded 600 trees in week one. Just over a year later and we have funded more than 50,000.

The project was started by UCLH Sustainability Champions and completed with the support of UCLH colleagues within the digital, transformation and communications teams. Although implementing Ecosia was a small change, it has had a wide-reaching impact, with several other NHS trusts now making a similar switch. 



Our initiatives include our pedometer challenge which had a specific focus on promoting green and active travel amongst our staff. UCLH has also set up a bike user group to promote cycling. The group holds regular free bike check sessions and highlights safe cycling storage facilities. 

UCLH will be regularly surveying staff to ensure more are cycling, walking, or using public transport and fewer are relying on private cars for their commute. UCLH has signed up a programme that rewards staff for taking part in green initiatives, called Green Impact .  

UCLH's network of sustainability champions share our passion to be a more sustainable healthcare organisation. Their role is to help other colleagues adopt more environmentally sustainable practices both at work and at home.  

UCLH sustainability champions: 

• are a ‘port of call’ on sustainability in their department 

• support colleagues to learn about the sustainability agenda, our green plan and other environmental policies 

• identify potential improvements which would result in more sustainable practice, either locally or trust wide 

• exchange ideas, updates, resources and support with other champions 

• promote sustainability initiatives and general awareness at UCLH. 

There are now additional champion roles that allow staff to focus on a specific niche they are passionate about: energy, food, communications, training, reduce reuse recycle champions. 

Sustainability champions meet regularly to hear updates from the sustainability team, learn more about priority projects and share best practice. As of January 2023, there were 231 sustainability champions across UCLH: we are aiming to have one champion in every department. 

Learn more about the UCLH sustainability champions programme

In 2022, the sustainability team ran a week of education and activity sessions themed around sustainability and the climate crisis. We had talks from clinicians, sustainability experts, NHS sustainability colleagues, wellbeing practitioners to help tackle climate anxiety, and our own sustainability team to talk about net zero at UCLH and how UCLH staff can get involved. 

In 2023, we will be running another green learning week. This time, we are collaborating with our North Central London colleagues to hear their expertise and insights, as well as open up the invite to wider NCL staff. There will be a mix of face-to-face, virtual, and interactive sessions.