Publish date: 27 January 2023

Following the hottest summer on record in the capital, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) has launched ‘Critical Care For Our Climate’. The new strategy aims to build sustainability at UCLH in key areas such as clinical care, procurement and supply chain, estates, technology, transport, education and engagement. 

UCLH has invested over £2m in energy saving measures such as LED lights and earlier this week, added an additional 452 solar panels on the hospital roof, which together will save millions in energy costs over the coming years.

The NHS has set a nationwide target of achieving a net zero carbon footprint by 2040, but, having declared a climate and health emergency in 2021, UCLH wants to go faster and achieve a net zero carbon footprint by 2031. For indirect emissions (those it can influence along its supply chain), UCLH aims to achieve net zero by 2040, five years ahead of the NHS England target.

Solar panels have been added to the roof of University College Hospital
Solar panels have been added to the roof of University College Hospital

UCLH has already made significant progress in reducing its carbon footprint:

  • Investing over £2 million in low energy LED lights across its hospitals. These use a quarter of the energy of previous lights, last longer, and will save more than 1,200 tonnes of CO2 per year
  • In 2022, we have delivered the highest number of virtual appointments of any hospital in England, helping us reduce waiting and unnecessary travel for patients.  Last year we delivered about 500,000 outpatient appointments virtually, saving over 15 million miles in patient travel each year.
  • Anaesthetic gases and inhalers contribute about 5 per cent of the NHS’ total carbon footprint, so reducing their use has been a priority. UCLH has already reduced the use of the most environmentally harmful anaesthetic gases by over 70 per cent, by choosing greener alternatives.

The new strategy will build on these achievements, focusing UCLH’s carbon reduction initiatives in four main areas:

  • clinical care
  • hospital buildings, technology and transport
  • suppliers and products used
  • education and engagement.

Key targets include:

  • Enabling lower-carbon medical treatments and reducing waste and overuse.
  • Eliminating the use of natural gas and other fossil fuels by 2031
  • Setting mandatory carbon reduction targets for all suppliers
  • Adapting patient and visitor transport, staff commuting and fleet vehicles to reduce emissions.

Luke O’Shea, UCLH director of innovation, said:

“The NHS already has ambitious sustainability targets. Having declared a climate and health emergency in 2021, UCLH wants to go further and faster in reducing its carbon footprint. ‘Critical Care for Our Climate’, will help us make the shift to net zero that is so important for UCLH patients and staff, the local community and our planet, while continuing to deliver first-class patient care.

Elliott Westhoff, UCLH programme lead for sustainability, said:

“The strategy has been put together after extensive consultation. We are grateful to all staff and our partner organisations for the ideas and enthusiasm they have contributed so far, and look forward to working with colleagues across UCLH to deliver net zero.”

For more information about our sustainability programme please visit the climate action and sustainability section of this website.