A view on the NHS becoming the first Net Zero healthcare system

net zero NHS
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James Bailey, Managing Partner at Bruton Knowles, provides his view on the NHS becoming the first Net Zero healthcare system

There are numerous considerations when advising clients on net zero approaches across public sector buildings, not least because the entire estate is so diverse.

The biggest challenges we are seeing all relate to cost and resources. Decarbonising a public building is inevitably an expensive option, especially when it is still in operational use, and it is often unclear which partner will fund the scheme.

The importance and difficulty in recruiting technical staff

Across the NHS, both in England and Wales, there are also problems – as there are in the wider public sector – with recruiting technical staff with the high level of knowledge and skills required to understand the optimum approach to decarbonising existing buildings. This is especially true for those properties that are listed or that fall within an older age bracket.

Even if a more radical approach could be pursued, it is hard to see how the agreed plans will materialise quickly due to fundamental resource limitations. In light of all the challenges the NHS currently faces, it isn’t easy to see where Net Zero sits on the priority list.

That said, we are seeing far more engagement on this important issue than we have done previously, so every small step forwards must be seen as a positive. The appetite for decarbonisation across the NHS is certainly growing, and it is reassuring to see the commitment for it to become the first Net Zero healthcare system in the world.

Implementing the latest renewable technology

The quick wins will, no doubt, focus on ensuring more energy and resource-efficient use across buildings, alongside the longer-term goal of providing carbon-neutral facilities or even carbon-negative ones due to their energy self-sufficiency.

Healthcare new builds offer a fantastic opportunity to incorporate the latest renewable technology and sustainable design specifications to this end. Still, of course, it will always be harder to introduce such an approach in an older estate.

Perhaps the best option is for each building to undergo a staged eco-retrofit. Of course, this will involve high levels of planning, especially when it means interruptions to patient care, but tackling the decarbonisation issue in small but achievable chunks seems the most likely way to tackle the bigger-picture problem. It might also solve the financial challenges if relatively modest funding can be ring-fenced along the way.


This piece was written and provided by James Bailey, Managing Partner at Bruton Knowles LLP.


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