NHS staff are being encouraged to walk or cycle to work as part of a sustainability drive to help the health service save money at the same time as reducing carbon emissions.
The call comes from a new report commissioned by health chiefs, which says the NHS could save over £400m and cut 1m tonnes of carbon emissions every year by implementing efficiency savings with environmental ‘co-benefits’.
The report, Securing Healthy Returns, produced by the Sustainable Development Unit for NHS England and Public Health England, calculated the potential environment co-benefits of 35 initiatives designed to, for example, improve prevention of ill health and develop better models of care.
Key areas that would offer both cash savings and environmental benefits included: encouraging staff to cycle or walk to work; providing mental health services to people being treated for physical problems in hospital; and increased use of telehealth for patients with long term conditions.
Even if just 3% of staff across England took up cycling or walking, ‘this could reduce car miles as well as increasing exercise and improving health in NHS staff by 114,000 Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs)’, the report said.
‘This will also help improve local air quality and reduce road traffic.’
David Pencheon, director of the Sustainability Development Unit, said: ‘This report and supporting resources help organisations to identify opportunities that can save money now and have a positive environmental effect – which will save money and improve health, now and in the future.
‘We don’t have to choose between saving money and protecting the environment – we can make decisions that will do both as well as improve people’s health.’