Net Zero surgery under the microscope

As a research programme into ‘green surgery’ in the UK NHS launches this autumn, the University of Birmingham is bringing together clinicians, policy makers and industry for a major conference aimed   at reducing the healthcare sector’s contribution to climate change.

The healthcare sector is a major emitter of carbon: if the global sector were a country, it would be the world’s fifth largest polluter, with the NHS contributing six per cent of the UK’s total carbon footprint.

Operating theatres make up as much as 25% of hospitals’ contribution, but three in every four people need surgery in their lives.

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health and Social Care, will deliver the keynote address at the one-day event on the University’s UK campus on 13 December 2023. Other speakers will be announced closer to the event date.

UHB Consultant Surgeon and Professor of Global Surgery at the University of Birmingham Mr. Aneel Bhangu said: “Operating theatres are critical to preventing life-limiting disease, but they represent a hospital’s biggest source of carbon and waste.

“The NHS aims to be net carbon zero by 2040, but we can’t achieve this without making surgery greener. Environmentally friendly healthcare is important to patients and communities but requires changes in behaviour and care pathways across complex teams.”

The conference will connect participants with ideas, research and innovation in sustainable surgery will be discussed, with emphasis on ongoing research projects and training opportunities.

The event builds on University of Birmingham experts’ work with a surgical team at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust to complete the first documented ‘net zero’ operation in the NHS.

Mr. Bhangu added “We can only achieve our sustainability goals by working with colleagues across the UK to create a wider impact across the whole NHS. This conference will provide a major step forward in greening surgery across the UK and making the NHS a global example of what can be done for environmentally sustainable healthcare.”

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