Kevin Porter argues that the health service should use its huge purchasing power to demand the use of the most sustainable materials in the manufacture of PPE and prioritise environmental credentials during procurement.
Healthcare leaders often look at how they can make care safer and more effective, and quite rightly, but rarely is attention given to the environmental cost that accompanies better care. Products, devices and materials manufactured by firms for use in GP surgeries, hospitals and care homes undoubtedly help save lives, and advances in technology have improved healthcare for millions. However, many of these products can’t be reused or recycled, and are damaging the environment. This tension, between things that are good for people, but bad for the environment, has been accelerated by COVID-19 and urgently needs addressing.
As the technical director of a personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturer, I see first-hand the environmental impact that facemasks, shields and aprons are having on the planet, but also see the essential lifesaving role they play in keeping health workers safe. The health and social care carbon burden rose by 1% in the first six months of the pandemic,1 despite the postponement and cancellation of a significant number of elective procedures and a sharp decline in general A&E attendance. This can largely be attributed to the significant increase in the procurement and use of PPE.
COVID-19 has left behind an unenviable environmental legacy. The challenge for the NHS is how it can continue to keep staff safe while playing its role in reducing the impact single use PPE has. The health service should use its huge purchasing power to demand the use of the most sustainable materials in the manufacture of protective equipment and prioritise the consideration of environmental credentials in procurement evaluations, once quality and safety standards have been met.
Log in or register FREE to read the rest
This story is Premium Content and is only available to registered users. Please log in at the top of the page to view the full text.
If you don't already have an account, please register with us completely free of charge.