Health Secretary launches review into ‘slow and deadly poison’ of air pollution

In 2017, around 9.5 billion miles of road travel was related to patients, visitors, staff and suppliers to the NHS

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has launched an in-depth review into the impact of dirty air on health in the UK.

He describes polluted air as a “slow and deadly poison”, which is estimated to result in 2.4 million new cases of disease by 2035, according to Public Health England (PHE).

The review will provide updated estimates of new diseases caused by toxic air as well as up-to-date modelling to identify how many cases of disease the government’s Clean Air Strategy could prevent and where more attention could be placed.

It supports the plans of the NHS to go green, which includes a target to cut business mileages and fleet emissions by 20% by 2023/24.

In 2017, around 3.5% of all road travel in England – 9.5 billion miles – was related to patients, visitors, staff and suppliers to the NHS.

Under the new plans, at least 90% of the NHS fleet will use low emission engines – including 25% ultra low emissions – and primary heating from coal and oil fuel in NHS sites will be phased out by 2028.

Over the next five years, patients will be offered online digital GP consultations and redesigned hospital support is expected to avoid up to a third of outpatient appointments, significantly reducing transport pollution.

Mr Hancock said: “Our health is shaped by the environment we live in and dirty air is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. We cannot underestimate the very real impact that dirty air – this slow and deadly poison – is having on our lives, our health and our NHS.

“Our recent Clean Air Strategy sets our some bold steps on cleaning up our air but it is also vital that we have accurate long term data on the potential health impacts of pollution. This review will help us map out how much disease is caused by dirty air and what steps we are taking to prevent this – something which is at the heart of our work to help people live longer, healthier lives through the NHS Long Term Plan.”

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