When we look at energy we need to consider the electricity healthcare buildings draw from the national grid and the energy generated onsite through the burning of fuels. Across the NHS building energy makes up 10% of the carbon footprint, with 2351 kilotonnes CO2e coming from the secondary care estate alone (Delivering a Net Zero, 2020).
"Who on earth is using all that energy?!"
Figure 1: Annual electricity use, and how it is consumed in various hospital settings. UCV - Ultra Clean Ventilation, AGS - Anaesthetic Gas Scavenging. (Morgenstern at al, 2016)
Thanks to the pain staking work of the UCL Energy Institute we are able to look more closely at areas of high energy use. Looking at figure 1, on the left hand side we see that theatres use on average 3 times more electricity than the wards. We can also see that a large proportion of the energy use in theatres comes from the ventilation systems and the anaesthetic scavenging (AGSS), whereas the majority of the wards electricity use comes from lighting.
How often do you turn off the Anaesthetic Gas Scavenging?
So we can see that theatres use alot of electricity, and alot of the energy use comes from the AGSS and the theatre ventilation. On your next night shift, I encourage you to take a walk around the operating theatres. As miosis, shivering and unnerving sounds take over your senses you may want to head back to the warm confines of the on-call room but ask yourself why you feel like you do. Why are the lights still on? Why is it so cold? What are those sounds? Its common place overnight for lights, equipment and the AGSS to be left on. A simple act by us could make a big difference here. At GASP we have made the Theatre & Anaesthetic Room Shutdown Checklist, we are currently conducting research to measure it effectiveness.
Enough about anaesthesia! What about the bigger picture?
It will take a lot more than tuning things off if we are to reach net zero, but its an important element that we can start NOW. Behind the scenes the NHS has big plans when it comes to energy reduction as part of the road to net zero. Did you know that 40 new hospital building projects have been given the green light, with 6 new large hospital builds hoping to be delivered by 2025? In spring 2021 look out for a new Net Zero Carbon Hospital Standard, ensuring that the builds are made sustainably and are flexible for the future. Other plans made in the document, Delivering a Net Zero NHS, show how the carbon footprint from energy use across the NHS will be reduced (Figure 2). From building upgrades to onsite renewable energy generation, we can expect to see a lot of changes coming from our healthcare estates.
Figure 2: Interventions to reduce emissions in the secondary care estate of the NHS (Delivering a Net Zero NHS)