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BMA sets out plan for general practice to become carbon neutral in 10 years

The BMA has charted its plans for general practice to be carbon neutral within 10 years’ time.

The GP Committee paper, devised in line with policy from last year’s Annual Representative Meeting, claims that the benefits of reducing practices’ carbon footprint may include improved patient health; reduced workload; and saved costs.

It estimates that between 65% and 90% of the carbon footprint in GP practices is associated with pharmaceutical prescribing, with electrical equipment; medical supplies; paper towels and printing also contributing. 

Identifying ‘added pressures on the health service and the ever-increasing carbon footprint on the planet’, the BMA stresses that it is ‘imperative’ that the profession becomes more environmentally-friendly and sustainable. As a result, it has highlighted six priorities for the Government to employ whilst supporting the cause.

These are:

  • Green Impact for Health – a toolkit that supports practices to make environmentally responsible changes
  • Prescribing – labelling; inhalers; over-prescribing and waste; deprescribing
  • Social prescribing
  • Equipment
  • Remote consultations
  • Infrastructure and premises

GPC England is now calling on the Government and NHS England/NHS Improvement to take immediate steps to support its ten-point plan. 

This includes developing and encouraging uptake of carbon literacy training modules; the pharmaceutical industry developing an independently validated methodology to assess the total environmental impact of all medications; and all medications clearly displaying their carbon footprint.

Also counted are a nationwide medication returns and recycling scheme; IT system providers to incorporate validated deprescribing tools into the GP operating system; social prescribing to be considered a default option for management plans and for these to be incorporated fully into GP IT systems; and support and resources for GP practices to return to reusable medical equipment safely.

It aims for investment in infrastructure and premises to make the general practice estate carbon neutral by no later than 1 January 2030.

The GPC report said: ‘Reducing the carbon footprint of practices will not only mitigate climate change, it can potentially improve patient health, reduce workload and save money. Inactivity and obesity-related conditions can be tackled by promoting active travel which can also reduce harm caused by air pollution.

‘Reducing inappropriate prescribing and switching to low carbon alternatives can also reduce harm and improve health.’