students happy

GASP Medics talk: how the healthcare sector can help fight climate change

Posted: 27th April 2022

Doctor holds on a stethoscope

We were pleased to welcome representatives of GASP Medics to Brampton at the end of last term. GASP Medics is a nationwide, non-profit, multidisciplinary movement made up healthcare professionals, students, managers and sustainability consultants working together to enact change. They came into the college to address our Medical School Forum, and Madina in Year 12 writes about their talk here….

The GASP sessions raised some very interesting points about the urgency of fighting climate change, and the role that the healthcare sector has to play in that. We were introduced to three ways of approaching climate change via an analogy of a plane taking three different paths: continue on its current path and eventually crash or do nothing about climate change and end up with an uninhabitable planet; take off or relocate t0 a different plane; or take the only sensible path and turn around, meaning take immediate action against climate change. We discussed the importance of a global collaborative effort and clear decision-making in tackling climate change. We also touched on the unfairness of holding newly industrialized and developing countries to the same standard as developed countries when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Of all the sectors contributing to climate change, healthcare is one of the hardest to make more sustainable, as the treatment of patients is not something you can cut back on. I’m sure we all agree that compromising patient care with the aim of making healthcare more sustainable is a completely unacceptable scenario. However, despite these challenges the NHS has set an ambitious goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2040. Although it is inevitable that a hospital environment with countless emergencies and surgeries will produce a lot of medical waste and anesthetic gases, which come with a significant carbon footprint, there are a variety of steps hospitals can take to make healthcare more sustainable without reducing the quality of patient care. One way of making that happen is to cut transport emissions by encouraging some of the hospital staff to carry out some of their duties remotely, given that their absence from the hospital won’t affect the quality of patient care provided. Administrative tasks and online consultations are good examples of this. Another way of reducing healthcare’s carbon footprint is for hospitals to refuse to buy from suppliers that are not sustainable enough, which will have knock-on effects, as it would incentivize the suppliers to become more environmentally friendly, as well. Moreover, switching from single-use to metal surgical equipment can help reduce surgical waste, without increasing the risk of infection as the equipment is sterilized.

Introducing these changes can help reduce healthcare’s impact on climate change, bringing us one step closer to saving the world from the disastrous effects of climate change, much like a single control mechanism working alongside the other buttons and switches in a cockpit can help turn the plane around and prevent it from crashing.

Madina, student