NHS “should haggle with energy suppliers more”

There is “room” for the NHS to scrutinise its deals with energy suppliers, says the campaign manager of a new awards recognising the green efforts of NHS hospitals. Scott Buckler […]

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By Vicky Ellis

There is “room” for the NHS to scrutinise its deals with energy suppliers, says the campaign manager of a new awards recognising the green efforts of NHS hospitals.

Scott Buckler at the NHS Sustainability Awards told ELN there are some “great examples” of NHS Trusts saving energy.

In an interview about the awards, he suggests there is potential to get “better value” from suppliers.

Read our full Q&A with Scott below, taking in everything from NHS work on energy saving and staff incentives to tips on what the judges are looking out for.

ELN: Why is it important for the NHS to save energy?

Scott Buckler: The NHS is facing an unprecedented financial crisis at the moment with Trusts making tough choices on frontline services. With such an area as energy many NHS Trusts can create operational savings which in turn creates frontline finance. Energy is an essential part of any organisation, it is what keeps it from switching off, however this does not mean organisations such as hospitals should take it for granted instead they should be addressing it urgently to ensure it delivers value for money and long-term security.

Through energy management plans the NHS could potentially save millions per annum and this is something which should not be overlooked. It is also important to view energy as an environmental impact for any organisation which without care can often lead to a health issue such as for example LED lighting over conventional strip lighting which can lead to over-heating within wards.

How much more could be done in the NHS to save energy?

There are some great examples of saving energy within the NHS already. Many NHS Trusts have got to grips with this area and regularly engage with their suppliers and contractors to get the best deal and technology. However, as we see more and more Trusts come under scrutiny for waiting times and lack of staff, there is still room for hospitals to scrutinise their energy suppliers and demand better value which in turn frees cash to utilise elsewhere.

Behaviour change is also an integral aspect, many staff members are too busy to do the basics of light switching off and see it as a less important role. Staff incentives such as award schemes, vouchers and ward competitions are helpful. Technology also plays a huge role there are some great industry partners working on the NHS Sustainability Day campaign who provide great services.

Shouldn’t the health sector be focusing on health rather than energy? (Just to play devil’s advocate!)

It should be focusing on preventative health and not cure. For too long we have looked at curing rather than preventing. We place a huge emphasis on medicine, staff and cure yet we overlook the preventative aspect which is so simple. We have to move away from seeing energy as a separate area to healthcare and see that through better energy management within domestic housing for instance then we may see less illness.

If households cannot meet their energy bills thus not having heating then surely this presents a case for illness to appear. If energy companies were to work more closely with the NHS we could create a more preventative model of care which in turn would place less pressure on A&E and bring together both social and public health whilst supporting vulnerable members of society.

Do you think health professionals need the carrot rather than the stick (e.g. these awards) to get them to engage in saving energy?

I think there is no correct answer on this. Throughout the NHS Sustainability Day campaign we have seen examples of both carrot and stick. Health professionals are under intense pressure all the time whether it is nurses, doctors or GPs, so by placing further targets and requirements on them does not seem a good procedure. I see competition as a positive step forward, having regional NHS Trusts compete to improve their sustainability is a great motivation.

We have to move away from seeing energy as a separate area to healthcare

I also think peer recognition is key, there are many awards ceremonies and events which highlight the great work being done across the NHS but there needs to be a bar set in which Trusts can aim towards each year. With the NHS Sustainability Day Awards we have put together a panel at the forefront of this agenda who will examine the applications in detail. This recognition helps NHS Trusts and organisations measure their achievements against their neighbours as well as gaining feedback on how they can be better.

Following the awards NHS Sustainability Day will be providing a detailed file of which will highlight the carbon, energy and costs saved by all applicants which will be presented to all relevant departments and available to download off the site. This then allows a transparent view of the impact sustainability can have on health and the economy.

What are the judges looking for from entries?

The judges are seeking various aspects from all applicants. First and foremost they are looking at the impact their project has had on the patients, staff and environment. Secondly, they are seeking to recognise projects which have gone above and beyond the everyday expected requirements and excelled in making an impact. There will also be an emphasis from all judges on the impact each applicant has made on society and the economy.

As we move towards a preventative healthcare system we must ensure our NHS is addressing the role they play in the community, so the judges will have an eye out for the impact applicants have had on their regional communities.

If you would like to enter the awards please visit the awards site.