The NHS will not achieve its target of net zero by 2040 without urgent action, according to a new report.
Conducted by the University of Exeter, the research highlights that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will need to drop by 8% each year until 2036 – but they are currently only on track to drop by 1% each year.
The report reveals that the NHS is responsible for 4% of the UK’s total carbon emissions, more than the aviation sector, and that without drastic action, a ‘climate and health emergency’ could be unavoidable.
The heavy level of waste the NHS generates was also emphasised in the study, with a call from the researchers for circular practices to be implemented into its operations as soon as possible.
Its original 2040 net zero target requires an 80% reduction in emissions by 2032 at the latest and for its supply chain to come down to zero by 2045, however, without a focus on circular economy, the report argues this won’t be possible.
Lead author, Markus Zils, said: “Our research has outlined that meeting the NHS’s ambitious net zero targets is only possible with the adoption of circular economy practices.
“It is critical that companies and key supply chain partners work with the NHS and wider health system to begin this journey. Such a transformation would dramatically enhance the patient experience, improve financial efficiency and reduce the system’s environmental impact.”
An NHS representative commented: “This report demonstrates the importance of work already underway with our suppliers to meet this target.
“That’s why, one year on from the publication of the Delivering a Net Zero NHS report, the NHS England Public Board published a roadmap to help suppliers align with our net zero ambition and from next month, all NHS tenders will include a minimum of 10% scoring criteria in all procurements to assess how suppliers will contribute to NHS net zero targets.
“We continue to work closely with regulators, suppliers and supporting industry bodies in order to shape our approach.”