Exclusive: £500,000 interest-free loans to cut carbon footprint

Practices across the UK will be offered interest-free loans worth up to £500,000 to cut their carbon footprint, GP newspaper can reveal.

RCGPs sustainability lead Dr Tim Ballard said the loans would be 'completely cost-neutral'

Under a deal between the RCGP and the Carbon Trust, practices will be offered the loans to invest in green improvements to premises.

The loans could pay for double glazing, replacing oil boilers with green technology such as air source heat pumps, or for more significant structural premises alterations.

The deal is part of an RCGP scheme to offer practices a ‘green practice award' for using a tailor-made website to calculate their carbon footprint, and take steps to lower it.

The college's sustainability lead Dr Tim Ballard said that the loans would be ‘completely cost-neutral'.

‘A practice could work out that it needs to invest £55,000 to make an improvement that will save that amount in heating bills over four years. The Carbon Trust will pay the cash to the practice, and it then makes repayments over that period.'

He said the website would be operational from early in 2010, after the Department of Energy and Climate Change offered funding to kick-start its development.

‘We've been pushing on a lot of doors, and all of a sudden they've started to open,' Dr Ballard said.

Practices will be able to enter data on the website on their use of utilities, business travel, commuting, and materials and waste. The web tool will then calculate their carbon footprint.

It will also highlight areas the practice could address, and provide links to trusted firms and organisations that can help.

Meanwhile, Dr Ballard told GP that sustainability would be added to the RCGP's core GP curriculum, so trainee GPs are tested on their understanding of the role health professionals can play in promoting green issues.

The college has also agreed with Severn Deanery to train five ‘sustainability scholars'. These will be GP registrars who will receive specific educational support and carry out project work on sustainability in primary care during an extra month of final-year training.

For more information on green issues, visit www.healthcarerepublic.com/greenGP

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