Landmark green plans a major step on NHS road to net zero

ICS green plans set out systems’ carbon-reduction initiatives over the next three years.

22 April 2022

System-wide ‘green plans’ detailing how health and care systems will reduce carbon emissions mark a major milestone in the NHS’s ambition to be the first health system to reach net zero by 2040.

The plans - developed for the first time across integrated care systems (ICSs) - set out systems’ carbon-reduction initiatives over the next three years.

Distilling trusts’ strategies within each system footprint, the green plans also outline system-wide priorities and actions, and how they dovetail with the efforts of primary care, local authorities and other local care partners.

ICS leaders have said the three-year strategies provide an opportunity to reduce health inequalities and enable economic generation.

Each ICS was required to have a green plan in place from 1 April 2022.

Economic regeneration and reducing health inequalities

While the NHS continues to operate under challenging circumstances, the collaboration seen during the pandemic and deeper understanding of how the system can flex and work in different ways has provided a blueprint for how organisations can work together to tackle the climate emergency and achieve net zero goals.

Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership, for example, has been developing its green plan since 2021 and received overwhelming support from colleagues across the system - with public, private and voluntary sector organisations all involved.

“The opportunities ahead are exciting for the ICS, with our focus on co-production bringing a wealth of ideas and ways of working to achieve net zero for the communities we serve,” says Becky Jones, sustainability lead for Cheshire and Merseyside.

The plan recognises that the transition to net zero is an opportunity to tackle inequalities and the wider determinants of health. Among a package of measures, it will:

  • create specific climate adaptation plans to ensure the ICS is prepared for likely climate emergencies
  • prioritise inclusion of green space and biodiversity in the design of new buildings and refurbishments
  • ensure all senior staff undertake carbon literacy training by the end of the year
  • establish a medicines management and optimisation group, comprising primary and secondary care practitioners, to develop an overarching strategy to inform delivery at place and PCN level –  the group will also have responsibility for patient recovery and change of medications, disposal of medications (both care homes and patients) and further developing green social prescribing

Strong collaboration with partners across the system is “providing us with an opportunity for wider economic regeneration and reduction in health inequalities,” says Dave Sweeney, director of partnerships at the ICS.

“The board signed up to our Social Value Award, for which we aim to have 100 wide-ranging organisations signed up to by December 2022, is a demonstrable way to recognise the work being undertaken to ‘give back’ in a systemised approach.”

Supporting members

The NHS Confederation will be supporting members to implement their green plans, working through the issues leads are facing with implementation, including governance, leadership, data gathering, partnership working, and monitoring and evaluating.

To find out more about our support, please contact Rezina Hakim. Visit our web section to learn more about our work on climate change and sustainability.

To learn more about Cheshire and Merseyside's green plan, please contact Becky Jones.