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Securing a greener and more sustainable future for NHS hospitals

Headshot of Phil Woodford, Director of Corporate Affairs at University Hospitals Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT).

Lancashire and South Cumbria are amongst the most beautiful areas of the UK and any new hospitals will need to do justice to the beauty and heritage of the area – a tall challenge indeed for any architect. I love buildings and have explored some of those which can provide genuine, sustainable inspiration for our new facilities. And we don’t need to look internationally for great examples of hospitals making a real difference to local communities through good hospital design.

Covid has presented some unintended opportunities to accelerate change. Barts Health NHS Trust (opens in new window) estimates that a single virtual oncology consultation can save an average of 5.8kg of carbon dioxide. Across 100 journeys, this equates to a level of carbon dioxide that would take ten tree seedlings ten years of growth to capture.

Future hospital design can assist in making this a permanent reality, with a radical design change to assist those people less comfortable with or accustomed to such technology. How might they do this? There’s an exciting challenge…

University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust is also at the forefront of green thinking. To quote the Trust directly:

“Every pound saved on energy is a pound freed up to spend on patient care. Every tonne of carbon saved has a direct benefit to the local community and environment. There is no other game to be played in town."

Paul Featherstone, Director of Estates and Facilities, University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust.

It is this sort of thinking that led the Trust to be dubbed Britain’s greenest hospital (opens in new window). It has won an award for its work, which has resulted in a 20% reduction in Co2 emissions and a financial saving of around £390,000 a year.

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool was recently rebuilt as part of a near £300 million project, becoming the first NHS hospital to be built in a park. In 2016 it was awarded the green roof project of the year. And where did the design come from? Well, it came from the drawings of a 15-year-old patient.

I do, of course, recognise that great design and engineering skills were needed to bring the child’s drawing and vision to life, but what an example of putting patients at the heart of the change. We must learn from this.

And the innovation at Alder Hey continues inside the building: from the mood lighting installed in the single patient rooms, enabling patients to change the colour of their own room; to the overhead hoist that takes the patient from the bed straight to the bathroom. It is designs like this that improve accessibility within the hospital, as well as the experience of the stay there.

Of course, reducing Co2 emissions has many benefits, including a positive health impact on our local community and workforce. If we are to convince the public that an alternative lifestyle is what everybody needs to achieve, not only to live longer but also to live healthier, we, like in South Manchester and Liverpool, need to practise what we preach.

Headshot of Phil Woodford, Director of Corporate Affairs at University Hospitals Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT).

Author: Phil Woodford, Director of Corporate Affairs at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

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