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Sustainability in Surgery

We are committed to embedding sustainability into everything we do.

Climate change is the defining issue of this decade, and it is imperative that the role of individuals and organisations is understood. The NHS contributes significantly to the UK’s CO2 production, including via travel, infrastructure and waste management. Operating theatres are responsible for a major part of this.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a member of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change and we will align with relevant national and international initiatives aimed at mitigating further global temperature rise and climate change, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals

The Academy of Royal Colleges (AoMRC) has provided a definition and framework for our emerging strategy:

Sustainable healthcare involves ensuring the ability to provide good quality care for future generations by balancing the economic, environmental, and social constraints and demands within health care settings. A sustainable healthcare system maintains population health, reduces disease burden and minimises use of healthcare services.

The triple bottom line framework was developed to help organisations to understand their broader impacts and consists of economic, environmental and social domains. To improve sustainability, organisations must ensure that their use of resources does not exceed available supplies, and that their impacts do not negatively affect the wider community, the environment, or future generations.

Working Groups

Two working groups will guide the development and implementation of our sustainability strategy.

Sustainability Staff Group

Our staff are passionate about a greener future for RCS England. This group will lead on identifying areas to improve sustainability in day-to-day operational running, maximising opportunities in our redeveloped headquarters that will open in 2021. Details of members of this group and terms of reference are to follow.

The Sustainability in Surgery (SiS) Group 

This group was established in December 2019 to look at issues of sustainability in surgical practice, associated industries and within RCS England itself. Members of College council and staff, including the Faculty of Dental Surgery, are involved.

Articles and resources

Green Surgery Challenge 

RCS England are proud sponsors of The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare’s Green Surgery Challenge. If you’re interested in promoting more sustainable practices in surgery, this is for you! The challenge involves devising and implementing a project to make surgical practice more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, whilst maintaining or improving standards of clinical care. It’s open to all career grades and surgical specialties!

Victoria Pegna, Mahmood Bhutta, Olivia Bush and Chantelle Rizan provided more information and answered your questions in the virtual launch webinar. The projects will run over 10 weeks. The judging and awards will take place in November 2021; this will be an opportunity to showcase the projects and the achievements of the teams and to catalyse culture change within the surgical community, apply now

Sustainable Quality Improvement

This intensive sustainability course introduces health professionals and educators to the concept of ‘sustainable value’ and the ‘SusQI’ framework for integrating sustainability into quality improvement. 

  • Wednesday 24 February, 10am - 2pm  
  • Monday 26 April, 1pm - 5pm 
  • Wednesday 7 July, 10am - 2pm

Carbon Footprinting for Healthcare

This carbon footprinting course will help health professionals, quality improvement leads and medical students to become carbon literate. You will gain an understanding of what a carbon footprint is, how it can be used in the NHS’s endeavour to go net zero and how it is measured.

  • Thursday 11 February, 1pm – 5pm  
  • Wednesday 9 June, 10am – 2pm

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