Reducing carbon emissions in the NHS

Published: 16-Apr-2020

Hospitals face massive pressure on staffing, resources, budgets and hygiene – and now they are facing the increasing challenge of having to reduce carbon emissions. As a Facilities Manager you’re vital to productivity, staff and patient wellbeing and hygiene throughout your site, and you’ll be at the front of this new battle.

With climate change central to a global debate, the UK is now the first major economy to pass laws to cut its absolute carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

The NHS currently accounts for around 4 to 5 per cent of all UK greenhouse gas emissions – similar in scale to the airline industry, this carbon footprint must be reduced without undermining the principles and goals of the NHS.

The NHS published its first carbon reduction strategy in 2009, and in 2015 it surpassed an interim target of reducing emissions by 10 per cent despite significant increases in overall activity. Facilities Managers were at the forefront of this change and will be at the sharp end of the continued drive to net zero.

Failure to engage with the battle against climate change within your trust can damage your reputation and eat into your budgets as increasingly climate-conscious governments drive for greener options.

The Role of the Facilities Manager

Lighting, temperature, equipment, pharmaceutical storage, cleanliness and layout of medical wards and operating theatres – as Facilities Manager you are a key part of running the Hospital and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Doctors, Nurses, patients and visitors.

Facilities Management comprises multiple disciplines that are often taken for granted as they are performed behind the scenes. A great maintenance programme will go completely unnoticed as everything works smoothly and no-one ever trips over an engineer!

The new guidelines on energy usage are similar – hitting the targets tends to go unnoticed, missing them however, stands out.

You monitor and control systems throughout the hospital ensuring that strict hygiene measures are upheld, and staff have the equipment and environment they need to do their jobs safely whilst striving to improving energy efficiency. You plan the space management of your sites, ensure security and budgetary control, provide forecasting and planning and hold much of the responsibility for hitting emissions targets.

Contract management can often heavily infiltrate your role. HVAC, electrical, mechanical, refurbishments – managing these contracts across multiple sites can be a drain on time, resources and budget. This can eat into time that should be devoted to the efficient running of your site, and to reviewing possible improvements.

Having all your contracts in one place can bolster your ability to deal with the urgent situations that arise, supervise your various divisions, advise on business and energy and cost-saving measures.

A great facilities manager passes without notice by most inhabitants of a building. But without them we’d be sat, hungry, in a cold, dark room wondering why our equipment isn’t working and the roof is leaking - Erol Mustafa, Contract Manager at Artic

Maintaining the Productivity and Ethos of the NHS

Reducing carbon emissions in the NHS

The built environment plays an integral role in the wellbeing of your workforce and patients. Everything from health and safety, through to installed services, environmental factors and access to natural light play a part in physical and psychological welfare. This is where your site maintenance and management come into play.

Staff and patients spend a significant number of hours within the environment you cultivate and the services, safety, culture and ambiance you provide can directly affect their happiness and health. You also play a fundamental part in hygiene and cleanliness, structuring the correct processes and protocols within your hospital.

The smallest particle can contaminate water, equipment or medical procedures. Dust from construction projects can contaminate sterile areas. Proper ventilation, strict hygiene measures and pressurisation are critical in the control of disease and infection.

As well as finding the right advisors to help you reduce your energy usage, when you’re choosing a contractor to carry out maintenance or install new plant it’s important that you find someone with experience of working in clean environments like hospitals and research facilities. Works need to be completed with minimal disruption, but unlike in an office your site operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – and seemingly minor particulate could cause major problems.

Reducing carbon emissions in the NHS

Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four hours sharpening the axe” it may be trite to say work smarter not harder but making sure you have the best tools for the job is the most effective way to make your life easier. The right tools go far beyond screwdrivers, whether it’s selecting the best value, most energy efficient plant for your HVAC system or having access to the right engineers to maintain your assets, you need support from experts.

Planning is Key

A fault in the thermostat in the office might make you unpopular, but the stakes are much higher in a hospital. Many patients by the nature of their illness, can be seriously affected by the environment around them if it isn’t optimal.

Artic have worked with hospitals throughout central and greater London, so we know the importance of planning your maintenance to ensure you stay inside your budgets without compromising on up-time – and without having to close a major London road at 8:45am to get your new HVAC unit in… We also have extensive expertise in balancing the needs of a primary care environment with the available methods for energy reduction.

“Our engineers needed to understand that working in live and acute areas of a hospital may result in change of plans to ensure the staff and patrons of the site are not affected and more importantly that the lifesaving activities they carry out face no additional challenges.” James, Head of Service and Maintenance at Artic

To develop a robust maintenance and replacement programme that makes the most of your budgets and minimises your energy usage you need a Hard FM partner who aligns specific management teams to specific market sectors. This way they can reflect the experience and competence of the managers and administrators. It’s vital your FM Partners take care to ensure that suitably qualified individuals with the right engineering skillsets and the experience of working in a healthcare environment work on the contract.

As well as the impact on procedures, staff and patients, a damaged or sub-optimally running system can have a massive energy cost. With sites demanding swift support and a ‘first time fix’, your contractor is expected to prevent and solve problems across the business and select the correct engineer, armed with the right tools and expertise for the job.

A multi-skilled engineer can perform a wide variety of tasks and is your first line of defence. Ideal for initial call-outs – they can often resolve the issue in just one visit. Specialist engineers hold a comprehensive knowledge of their specialist discipline and are your second line of defence when more complex problems arise.

Needing a follow up with additional works, can often be viewed as a failure, something that should have been corrected the first-time round. As a Facilities Manager, you’re only as good as the support and skills you have at your disposal. Ideally you should have access to highly trained, multi-skilled engineers who also have specialist training in certain areas.

Using the Right Tools

You’re often expected to foresee and prevent problems. Your work can be pressured and often impacts the whole organisation. Accurate day-to-day knowledge is vital for problem prevention.

Additionally, many methods to reduce energy consumption – dropping the average temperature by 2 degrees, reducing the time lights are on by just 5 minutes or dropping the wattage or intensity of your bulbs are much more difficult to implement in such a sensitive, 24 hour environment. You need to find ways to increase the efficiency of your systems without compromising on patient care, which takes an in depth understanding of your systems and site usage.

Without supporting software, you’re operating with one hand tied behind your back. There’s no historical data to steer your future decision-making. Health and safety, energy usage stats, site usage, risk assessment and enforcement, compliance, safety measures, procedures and training are key building blocks to ensure complete service delivery aligned with the required SLA. Paper files make it borderline impossible to keep and quickly access accurate records and have full visibility and tracking.

The wider trust will also suffer if you don’t have the data readily available to show what you need in order to avoid, prevent and mitigate problems and make improvements. H&S measures, practices, site efficiency, policies and reporting all benefit from the 360° aerial view of a fit for purpose CAFM system.

Any contractors you use should have their own CAFM system and should use software bolt-ons to enable seamless integration so you can get a complete overview of their processes and activities.

The Artic Team

For an Energy Management solution that combats climate change, your aim should be to improve overall site efficiency, reduce your carbon footprint and streamline costs. In a time of rising budget deficits and mounting pressures, climate change might seem to be a distant priority for the NHS, but it is one that will need to be tackled if access to comprehensive health care is to be sustainable in the future.

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