More than a third of the largest NHS trusts are still unable to state the size of their full carbon footprint, despite it being three years since the national plan for ‘net zero’ was established.
The NHS has been tasked with reaching a net zero by 2040, with one of the first key steps for local organisations being to assess the size of their current carbon footprint.
Yet of the 50 largest trusts approached by HSJ, 19 were unable to provide full data for either of the past two years (see list below). This included University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, which said it only held building emissions data, and University Hospitals Leicester, which only provided data for energy.
Guy’s and St Thomas’ could only share figures for a partial carbon footprint, while Somerset FT said data was not available and Bedfordshire Hospitals said it did not have its own carbon footprint process.
A further three did not respond, meaning the percentage without full carbon footprint data could be as high as 44 per cent.
Richard Smith, the chair of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, said: “Clearly for any organisation or hospital to reach net zero it needs to know its carbon footprint, and it needs to know it as soon as possible in order to record progress or the lack of it.”
He added: “Measuring a carbon footprint is not straightforward, but there are many organisations that can do it for you at a cost that would not be that high for a big hospital.”
The 2040 target is for emissions the NHS can directly control – known as its carbon footprint – and includes facilities, electricity, energy, business travel, inhalers, anaesthetics, water and waste.
The health service is also aiming for an 80 per cent reduction of its core carbon footprint by 2032 compared to a 1990 baseline.
Twenty-eight trusts replied to freedom of information requests for their carbon footprint – as defined by NHS targets – with regular annual figures. Three trusts provided full figures for 2021-22, but were still in the process of calculating last year’s footprint.
Many trusts have been partially recording their footprint. Imperial Healthcare said only a small proportion of its footprint – business travel, NHS fleet and fluorinated gases – was missing but would be included in future.
Some were in the process of working out their carbon footprint and said this would be available in the near future, including Midlands Partnership FT and Mid and South Essex FT. University College London Hospital FT said it had calculated data but this was still in the process of validation.
Oxford University Hospitals said it had been unable to record data previously without external expertise but was now calculating its 2022-2023 figure.
Portsmouth Hospitals Trust said its only recorded carbon footprint data was a 2019 estimate provided by NHS England. A trust spokeswoman said this was currently sufficient for the trust to target its limited resources.
An NHS England spokeswoman said: “Our net zero commitment applies to the NHS as a whole and we continue to monitor emissions at a national level.”
She added: “To ensure NHS trusts, who are extremely busy, are not overburdened with reporting requests they are asked to focus on tracking progress against their Green Plans in their annual reports.”
Date: 29 October