Cornwall PCN wheels out electric car fleet to reduce carbon footprint

Staff at a primary care network (PCN) in Cornwall have committed to reducing their carbon emissions and operating more sustainably by using a fleet of electric cars to carry out day-to-day operations.

Electric cars (Photo: Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)
Electric cars (Photo: Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Staff at practices within Falmouth and Penryn PCN will share four Skoda Citygo-E vehicles to carry out routine home visits and prescription deliveries as part of a long-term drive to lower their overall carbon footprint.

The switch to electric vehicles replaces the PCN’s previous business mileage scheme, which saw healthcare workers operating private, heavy-diesel vehicles before being reimbursed for their travel.

Use of the electric vehicles will ensure that carbon dioxide vehicle emissions will be completely eliminated through a deal with a leasing firm.

GP carbon emissions

According to a BMA report last year, prescribing is estimated to account for 65-90% of the carbon footprint of general practice, while around half of the remaining footprint relates to travel for patients and staff.

Cornwall-based Penryn Surgery will control and manage the use of the fleet of vehicles across the PCN which has a combined 48,000 patients across the region. The network is understood to be the first in south-west England to introduce a fleet of electric vehicles.

Managing partner at Penryn Surgery Ryan Ohly hoped the initiative would lead to more PCNs in the area using electric vehicles. He said: ‘This is a huge step forward for the surgeries across the PCN and our commitment to operating more sustainably.

‘GPs and healthcare practitioners make relatively short journeys of up to 30 miles a day to visit our patients, so it appeared a no-brainer to explore switching to low-emission vehicles to streamline our operations and help to reduce our carbon footprint.

Home visits

‘The feedback we have received from colleagues has been incredible and I hope that our electrification journey can pave the way for more surgeries and PCNs across the country to realise the potential that electric vehicles can bring.’

Last year the NHS adopted a multi-year plan to become the world's first carbon net zero national health system, which includes working towards road-testing a zero-emissions emergency ambulance by 2022.

The BMA has suggested that general practice could become carbon neutral by the start of 2030 under a 10-point plan inspired partly by changes adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic - with a heavy focus on changing prescribing.

In 2019, Wessex RCGP faculty set up an initiative encouraging GPs to use bicycles for home visits to reduce their carbon emissions, subsidising specially-adapted bicycles through the Cycle for Good scheme.

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