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Give GPs a ‘green fund’ to cut carbon emissions, BMA asks health minister

by Sofia Lind
26 October 2020

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The BMA’s GP Committee has written to primary care minister Jo Churchill to ask for a ‘green fund’ to be set up to help GP practices become carbon neutral.

The letter from GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey says this comes as climate change ‘remains one of the most important issues of current times, particularly in terms of protecting the long-term health of the nation’.

He welcomed NHS England’s new report Delivering a ‘net zero’ NHSadding that the GPC believes the response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis ‘can help us rise to the challenges of climate change’.

‘I am therefore seeking your support for the creation of a “green fund” for general practice to allow GPs to access resources that will lead the NHS towards sustainable carbon neutrality,’ Dr Vautrey told Ms Churchill.

The letter added that a green fund ‘would help GPs to make significant, lasting progress towards achieving net zero’.

He highlighted ‘existing initiatives’, such as ‘the incentive to move patients towards low carbon inhalers’, which he said were ‘a step in the right direction and need to be brought under a dedicated, wide-reaching
programme which facilitates practice-level analytical activities and benchmarking’.

‘Practices must be enabled to make sustainability part of their day-to-day processes and their decision making,’ he added.

The GPC letter suggested the green fund could fund initiatives including:

  • hardware, software and training for remote working;
  • low carbon energy provision;
  • recycling of general practice consumables; and
  • developing learning and training modules to improve carbon-literacy.

Pharmaceutical prescribing should also be tackled, with research suggesting this accounts for ‘between 65% and 90%’ the carbon footprint in general practice.

‘[A]ction is needed now to ensure that GPs and other clinicians can make informed decisions about the carbon-footprint of the medicines they prescribe,’ Dr Vautrey said.

This should include all medicines being labelled with a RAG rating identifying their carbon footprint, and a relaxation of rules meaning GPs and pharmacists could redistribute unopened medicines that are returned unopened by patients, the letter said.

‘I hope you will take the opportunity to consider our full set of proposals and the idea of a green fund for general practice. While our proposals are designed to reduce the carbon footprint, it is notable how often they equate to making better use of technology and working more efficiently,’ Dr Vautrey concluded.

A version of this story first appeared on our sister title Pulse.