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The environment – and the need for action to protect it – has undoubtedly become one of the issues of our time but, arguably, has not always dovetailed with the priorities of the health sector.
Sustainability, recycling and other environmental factors sometimes seem at odds with modern healthcare settings. For example, vital issues such as infection prevention and control govern the heavy reliance on many single-use products. This conflict has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to a huge increase in consumption of the single-use personal protective equipment that is vital to keep staff as safe as possible.
“Some great work has already been done locally to improve sustainability around the country by nursing staff and organisations”
Despite such setbacks and other challenges, some great work has already been done locally to improve sustainability around the country by nursing staff and organisations. Initiatives and umbrella groups have also been formed to promote the green agenda, and NHS England and NHS Improvement even has a taskforce charged with reducing carbon emissions.
It increasingly feels like there is a growing push for the health sector, vast in size, to become more environmentally friendly or risk feeling out of step with the rest of society. But it can be difficult for individuals to know how they can contribute.
To put the spotlight on the topic, this month’s Nursing Times is themed as the ‘green issue’. Planned for a while now, like so many things, it was delayed by Covid-19.
In the clinical section, we highlight how nurses can help reduce the environmental impact of healthcare, giving examples of effective local initiatives led by nurses, and looking in detail at inhalers and continence products. In the news and opinion sections, we feature nurses who are driving the green agenda. Nursing Times itself is also looking at what it can do better. The print edition is currently delivered in recyclable polythene. However, we are investigating whether there are greener alternatives.
The environment is a subject especially close to my heart and a desire to help protect it was one of the reasons I originally trained to become a journalist. I urge everyone to consider what they can do, however small, to make their role or organisation more environmentally friendly.
I would also love to hear from you about other initiatives that enable nurses to make a difference, so we can help spread the word that the health and care sector can be as green as any other.