Hello! I am a surgeon who previously worked in the NHS for almost 30 years. I trained at Cambridge and Oxford and have worked in the U.K., South Africa, the U.S. and India, and have just joined the board as an Associate with the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare.
My sub-specialization, laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery involves gas anaesthetics for patients whose tummy is then distended with carbon dioxide, both contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. The most important thing to me now is climate change. I want to stop contributing to it and reverse some of the damage I have done while trying to help patients.
Healthcare (so the NHS in the U.K.) produces 4% of all the carbon emissions of the entire country and matches the emissions from the pre-COVID UK aviation industry. Sadly the pressures of the current crisis has necessitated increased use of single-use plastics and waste. This is matched by a US figure that 50 cents of each healthcare dollar is spent on waste or the cost of medical errors and not on making patients better.
We hopefully still have a window of opportunity to address the damage done to the environment and meet our commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2050 by changing things we all do. In healthcare this will mean all of us measuring and reducing our own carbon footprint, minimizing waste and recycling and re-using. At a strategic level this mean future proofed carbon neutral hospitals, supply chains and measuring the impact of treatments not just in terms of financial cost and their benefits to the individual but also measured against the negative impacts on the environment. This will make the industries that support healthcare make their own activities better for the climate and the future.