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Primary care networks (PCNs) in Sheffield have reduced CO2 emissions by more than 100 tonnes by swapping out which inhalers GPs prescribe.
The carbon footprint of salbutamol inhalers in the city has reduced from 587 tonnes to 484 over the last year following the change, the city’s ICB, South Yorkshire ICB, said.
While the scheme supports the investment and impact fund (IIF) indicator ES-02 – which encourages PCNs to cut the mean amount of carbon emissions per salbutamol inhaler – the programme has been active slightly longer.
Salbutamol inhalers are used to treat asthma, but some metered-dose inhalers use a small metal cannister that contains greenhouse gases to deliver the medication.
GPs in Sheffield were instead advised to switching to another that emits more than 50% less CO2.
The 100 tonnes cut in Sheffield is equivalent to driving a car around the world 13 times.
Dr Zak McMurray, medical director and sustainability lead at the ICB, said: ‘We have worked closely with GP practices, encouraging them to prescribe a different type of inhaler that emits less greenhouse gases. The medicine in each inhaler is the same and patients use the inhalers in the same way so there is no change for patients in this respect.
‘Our medicines optimisation team have supported practices with this switch. We’d like to thank practices and patients for being on board with this scheme. It’s already had a massive impact in the reduction of harmful gases.’
Research suggests that inhaler emissions account for around 3% of the NHS’ carbon footprint.
In July, a leading respiratory expert warned that GPs should avoid wholesale switching of patients onto greener inhalers as incentivised by the IIF, suggesting it risks damaging patient relationships and disease control.
An NHS spokesman at the time said: ‘Clinicians are enabling patients to choose greener devices, including dry-powder inhalers, where it is clinically appropriate for them to do so and as part of a shared decision-making conversation with patients.’