by OMS Admin

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) climate change is impacting the health of human lives in a variety of ways. For instance, it is affecting the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. As climate change develops, the UK has experienced 9 out of 10 of the hottest years on record in the last decade. Public Health England (PHE) reported that in 2019 almost 900 people died as a direct result of the heatwave. Furthermore, research suggests that up to a third of new asthma cases could be avoided, as a result of lower emissions.

WHO has predicted that between 2030 and 2050 climate change will have caused approximately 250, 000 additional deaths per year. Due to various reasons such as malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. Therefore, effecting our global healthcare industry and potentially cost between US$ 2–4 billion per year by 2030. Greenhouse gas emissions that result from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels are major contributors to both climate change and air pollution. One main way we can begin to tackle climate change is for countries, companies, and individuals to reach net zero.

What Is Net Zero?


According to the research initiative, Oxford Net Zero “Net zero refers to a state in which the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere. The term net zero is important because – for CO2 at least – this is the state at which global warming stops.” The UK has become the world’s first major economy to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

NHS As A Contributor

The NHS is one of the largest organisations in the world and the biggest employer in the UK, with 1.3 million direct staff. It makes up a significant part of the UK’s economy. However, this comes at a price to the globe. It is the largest public-sector emitter of carbon emissions in the UK. Responsible for around 4% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions. In 2017, the NHS emitted over 27 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. Action needs to be taken by not only cutting the overall NHS emissions but also building an adaptive capacity and resilience in the way of care.

The NHS has outlined several initiatives to reduce its contribution to climate change. Starting with 2008, when The Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) was formed following the publication of the Climate Change Act (2008). This was to help understand the links between health, healthcare, and climate change. Which then further encouraged organisations to promote sustainable development.

With the SDU, roadmaps were created, as well as extensive research to adapt and reduce the impacts the NHS has upon climate change. Some of the positive changes due to the SDU included:

  • 19% reduction in the overall health and social care carbon footprint since 2007
  • 23% of 590,000 tonnes of waste was recycled in 2017, with only 15% going to landfill
  • 21% reduction in water consumption, equivalent to around 243,000 Olympic swimming pools

Following this in 2019, the NHS release its NHS Long Term Plan. Within this are several commitments including:

  • Reducing the NHS carbon footprint by 51% by 2025 and by 80% by 2050
  • Rolling out the use of low emission vehicles
  • Reducing emissions from transport fleets and business mileage by 20% by 2023
  • Eliminating heating fuels such as coal and oil
  • Minimising usage of single-use plastics

In January 2020, the campaign “For a greener NHS” was launched where an expert panel was invited to set out a practical, evidence-based, and quantified path to a net zero NHS. However, later that week, WHO declared COVID-19 a global health emergency. Therefore, pushing this program back whilst the world tackled the pandemic.  October 2020, the NHS became the world’s first health service to commit to reaching carbon net zero. The “Delivering a Net Zero Health Service” report was created in response to the growing threat to health posed by climate change. Within it there are two main targets:

  1. The emissions they directly control such as electricity, water, waste, vehicles, NHS facilities, and fossil fuels (the NHS Carbon Footprint). They aim to reach net zero by 2040. The next ambition is to reach an 80% reduction by 2028 to 2032.
  2. The emissions they can influence such as food, medicines, construction, staff commuting, and patient and visitor travel (NHS Carbon Footprint Plus). They aim to reach net zero by 2045, with an ambition to reach an 80% reduction by 2036 to 2039.

Reducing Climate Change Through Transport

According to a report conducted by the Department for Transport in 2021, found 27% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions is due to transport. Of this, 55% came from UK cars.

According to the SDU, in 2018 roughly 3.5% (9.5 billion miles) of all road users in England related to patients, visitors, staff, and suppliers to the NHS. Resulting in around 7,285 tonnes of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 330 tonnes of particulates (specifically PM2.5). This contributed to around 14% of the total emissions. Which broke down approximately into 4% for business travel and fleet transport, 5% for patient travel, 4% for staff commutes, and 1% for visitor travel.

To reduce these figures the NHS has set out some aims and interventions. For instance, moving toward active modes of transport (cycling, walking, and public transport). This has been forecast to potentially save 461 ktCO2e per year. To enable this, all NHS trusts will be required to have a plan which:

  • Promotes active travel (walking and cycling)
  • Offers electric bikes supported by digital platforms (apps)
  • Shows changes to infrastructures such as improved cycle paths, storage, and shower facilities
  • Implements policies to include things such as car parking priority for those car-pooling

Additionally, the NHS aims to influence change within its 80,000 suppliers. Ensuring the suppliers are also decarbonising their own processes. This covers emissions from medical and non-medical equipment (18%), food and catering (6%), other procurement (18%), commissioned healthcare services outside the NHS (4%), and medicines and pharmaceuticals (20%).

Finally, by changing their large and varied fleet of vehicles, which currently equates to approximately 1,000 ktCO2e per year.

Electric Vehicles To Reduce Emissions

Electric vehicles (EVs) offer one main solution to reducing the world’s UK emissions. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has suggested “The full transition to electric vehicles (EVs) will be one of the most important actions to achieve the UK’s net zero targets. By 2032 at the latest, the CCC has called for all new light-duty vehicles sold, including passenger vehicles, taxis, vans, motorbikes, and mopeds, to be fully battery-electric vehicles. To reach net zero, all vehicles – including heavy-goods vehicles (HGVs) – must be fossil fuel-free by 2050.”

This has been further accelerated by the UK government. In November 2020, they made the transition to zero-emission cars and vans part of their 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution. Boris Johnson further announced the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be phased out by 2030. In addition to, all new cars and vans being zero-emission by 2035.

What are EVs?

EVs run either wholly or sometimes partially on electricity. This electricity has been stored onboard the vehicle within a battery or produced from hydrogen. There are different types of EVs depending on their emissions. However, the main two are zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs). ZEVs for instance emits no CO2 emissions whereas ULEVs emit emissions of less than 75g of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the tailpipe for every kilometre travelled.

Despite the increased need for EVs, in 2020 there were only 3.3% of licensed ULEV cars on UK roads. This portion equated to either a plug-in-hybrid, battery-electric, range-extended electric, or fuel cell electric car. In proportion to 58.9% petrol cars and 37.6% diesel.

Electrification Of NHS Transport

As one of the highest emission levels within the NHS they have set out an agenda to reduce this by:

  • Incentivise staff to use electric vehicles, with increased access to these.
  • Ensure all vehicles purchased or leased are low and ultra-low emission (ULEV)
  • Meet the NHS Long Term Plan commitment for 90% of the NHS fleet to use low, ultra-low, and zero-emission vehicles by 2028
  • Undertake a Green Fleet Reviews to identify immediate areas of action
  • Engage with project ZERRO (Zero Emission Rapid Response Operations Ambulance)

Barriers To EV Transition

In July 2021, the government laid out decarbonisation plan, Decarbonising transport: a Greener, Better Britain. Containing strategies, actions, and commitments to encourage the update. However, there are still some pain points and apprehension about how the future of EVs is going to be achieved.

  • Lack of overarching charging strategy – At the end of March 2022, there were 30,412 charging points across the UK. In order for the UK EV fleet to grow to 23.2 million by 2032, the CCC has estimated a need for a further 325,000 charging points. Additionally, within the government’s plan is a lack of understanding and need across urban routes, home, and on-street charging.
  • Lack of network capacity – there are certain constraints on the reliability and capacity of the Transmission Network Operators (TNOs) and Distribution Network Operators (DNOs). Consequently, companies who want to install charging points could be faced with huge costs. Therefore, instantly posing a negative response to the scheme.
  • Limited EV vehicles – although there are huge strides in the manufacturing of EV vehicles these are still limited. Currently, there are only 6 models of the electric van in circulation. Thus, perhaps leading to huge wait times. Some businesses stated that they believe the incentives for manufacturing EV vehicles are currently not sufficient.
  • Range Anxiety – a term referring to the fears over distance travel. That many people are worried that EV vehicles will not get them to their everyday travels or that they made need to stop more regularly. 

Electric Hospital Equipment

With an abundance of evidence about the effects of climate change upon human beings and the NHS, it is vital action needs to be taken. Especially by the NHS, moving towards the net zero targets and towards cleaner air. This will not only benefit the globe, but overall areas, staff, visitors, patients, and overall public health.

To aid towards this net zero target, ePower Trucks, offer professional electric vehicles for in and around hospital sites of all sizes. With electric pedestrian trucks for patients, staff, and visitors, and electric towing equipment. Regardless of the size of the job, our electrical hospital equipment can get the job done. Our fully electric equipment does not emit any CO2 emissions or sound.

We have various electric hospital vehicles that can transport heavy loads of up to 7,250kg even over long distances. In addition to Glutton® cleaning equipment to ensure all your areas are kept to the highest standards. Contact ePower Trucks today to find out more about our services.