The Florence Nightingale Foundation and Nuffield Health, the UK’s largest healthcare charity, have announced Rachael Brown, Infection Prevention Nurse at Nuffield Health Warwickshire Hospital, as the first nurse from the new Green Healthcare Leadership Programme to achieve a scholarship with the Florence Nightingale Foundation.
The programme, which champions nurse-led environmental sustainability, started in October 2022 and saw 18 nurses from across the independent sector complete the challenge of implementing nurse-led quality improvement projects to support environmental sustainability at their workplaces. These projects include carbon-reduction and waste management initiatives that have resulted in greater use of reusables, reduction of clinical waste, and initiatives that de-carbonise patient pathways.
Supported by expert speakers and thought-leaders during the programme, the nurses presented their projects at a celebration event on Wednesday 10 May at the offices of the Florence Nightingale Foundation. Charlotte McCardle, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England, also spoke at the event about the important role nurses have within sustainable healthcare and that all healthcare sectors need to work collaboratively. Caroline Smith, a former nurse and Nuffield Health’s Chief Operating Officer, also spoke about the need for collaboration to meet the challenges of climate change.
Rachael Brown, Infection Prevention Nurse at Nuffield Health Warwickshire Hospital, was awarded with a Florence Nightingale Foundation scholarship for her sustainable healthcare project that reduces the use of couch covers at Nuffield Health Warwickshire Hospital.
“Couch covers (also known as blue-roll covers) are widely available in outpatient, physiotherapy and pre-assessment areas within healthcare sites,” explained Rachael. “From an infection prevention point of view, they serve little purpose. We have now reduced them across our hospital, working with the different hospital teams such as physiotherapy and outpatients. I estimate this could save over seven trees, cut clinical waste of 1777kg and reduce carbon emissions of 4861kg C02e per year at our one hospital. This can be potentially scaled up across Nuffield Health’s other hospitals, fitness and primary care facilities,” she added.
After joining the programme, Rachael’s project has had a wider impact at her hospital and across Nuffield Health. “I shared my project with other infection prevention and control leads at Nuffield Health’s National Infection Prevention Day and I’m now working with our primary care leads about removing couch covers across Nuffield Health’s primary care services,” she commented.
In February, Rachel initiated the first meeting of the Nuffield Health Warwickshire Hospital Sustainability Forum. Around 30 people from different hospital teams attended and they came with different sustainability ideas for their own areas. This has led to the removal of paper cups and the small plastic milk containers from the coffee machines at our hospital. The hospital is now using re-usable crockery and a jug of milk which reduces plastic waste.
Gemma Stacey, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, said: “Rachael is a deserves the opportunity to become a Florence Nightingale Foundation scholar. All the nurses completing the programme have achieved so much with their projects and there will be a potential ripple effect across the nursing profession. In a short space of time, her project has made a real difference at Nuffield Health Warwickshire Hospital, both in reducing waste but also embedding a sustainable healthcare culture among the wider hospital team. I’m looking forward to seeing Rachael’s progress as she develops as a scholar, following an in-depth personal development plan to enhance her leadership skills. We know that the greatest impact FNF can have on sustainability is through our alumni and membership community being empowered to lead disruptive change and influence others.”
Ben Davies, Head of Quality & Professional Practice at Nuffield Health, added: “Rachael’s project and work throughout the programme shows that nurses have a key part to play in cultivating clinical excellence through sustainable service improvements. We cannot deliver the change we need without our health professionals leading the charge, wholeheartedly committing to collaboration. That’s why we launched the Green Healthcare Leadership Programme. Rachael’s work aligns with Nuffield Health’s ambition to become a sustainable healthcare leader in the UK, reaching carbon net zero by 2040 with a shorter-term goal of carbon net zero in our own operations by 2030.”
The Green Healthcare Leadership Programme is part of a multi-year partnership between Nuffield Health and the Florence Nightingale Foundation. The partnership aims to elevate the importance of nursing influence across the independent sector, encouraging nurses to improve clinical care through quality and service improvement, and policy development.