Wigan hospital chiefs have jointly declared a climate emergency as part of a city region-wide plan c to slash carbon emissions and avert predicted illness and disease from pollution.
Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust is one of several NHS bodies to make up the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, which made the announcement this week.
The trust has already taken steps to cut its carbon emission and along with Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, has reduced this figure by 11,000 tonnes.
Between them, the two trusts have also managed to save £1.7m a year on energy use through installing combined heat and power systems and LED lighting upgrades.
The Greater Manchester partnership is the first “integrated care system” - which includes NHS bodies and council social care - in the country to declare this kind of emergency.
The group will now develop and agree a plan before the end of the year that will show the NHS will meet its obligations to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Lord Peter Smith, chair of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and former leader of Wigan Council, said: “The NHS has recognised climate change as the greatest threat we face to our health and wellbeing. This is urgent and we need to act now.
“Many individual NHS organisations are taking action already but we are the first integrated care system to make this statement of a climate change emergency.
“We are well positioned in Greater Manchester to make a real impact because of devolution and the joined up policies we have under the Mayor of Greater Manchester for the NHS, councils and local transport.
“This means we can have an impact more quickly, for example by changing the products we buy across multiple NHS trusts, implementing new ways of using products such as medical gases and improving transport to and from NHS sites.
“The NHS has always been a strong advocate for social justice and it is critical that we respond to this threat to our way of life.”
Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership leaders have cited a number of reasons for action now, including concerns over the health impact of higher temperatures and “extreme weather events” related to climate change.
The group says that the NHS is responsible for around five per cent of all UK environmental emissions and that five per cent of all journeys are thought to be healthcare.
On top of this there are number of NHS products and services that are particularly damaging to the environment, for example the gases used in anaesthetics and the propellant used in asthma inhalers. However, alternatives are available and are being implemented.
In a statement sent out yesterday the partnership says that health harm caused by climate change and environmental degradation will affect the least well-off in society the worst and it is the NHS’s role to reduce health inequalities
It also states that the impact of global warming “poses a threat” to the operation of local healthcare facilities through flooding, extreme temperatures and poor air quality.
Among the proposals, which are expected to be agreed later this year, the partnership plans to introduce a “healthy travel plan” for each trust.
There will also be a Greater Manchester-wide plan for sustainable travel to and from NHS sites as well as sustainable drainage installed and electric vehicle charging points.