GP's online carbon calculator helps practices cut emissions and save money

A Yorkshire GP has developed an online calculator that is helping practices to reduce their carbon footprint and save thousands on energy bills.

Simple steps can save practices money and reduce their emissions (Photo: Highwaystarz-Photography/Getty Images)

The GP carbon calculator, created by locum GP Dr Matt Sawyer, allows practices to work out their annual non-clinical carbon emissions by consolidating data about their practice operations, including energy use, staff travel and procurement.

Dr Sawyer said the calculator, which is free to use, could help surgery teams to identify their ‘emission hotspots’ and generate a practice decarbonisation plan - allowing them to realise actions to reduce their emissions.

One practice has cut its annual electricity bill by £1,000 after using the calculator and making simple behaviour changes, Dr Sawyer said. Another has reduced its gas bill by 10% after looking at heating schedules.

Carbon footprint

The launch of the tool comes as the government last month announced plans for the NHS to become the world’s first 'net zero' national health service by 2040. All NHS suppliers will be required to publish a carbon reduction plan.

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Dr Sawyer said there was currently limited understanding of the carbon impact of healthcare and also little support to help GP practices to make the necessary changes to cut emissions. He said this was why he had developed the carbon calculator.

‘The ability to measure a practice’s own non-clinical carbon footprint is a vital step forward in understanding the emission hotspots from primary care. Once surgeries know their carbon emissions, they can come up with a decarbonisation plan and actions to implement to reduce it,' he said.

‘For example, at one practice they looked at how much electricity was used and made a very simple change - making staff responsible for turning off electrical appliances in their rooms at the end of the day.'

Staff travel

‘So after putting something very simple in place, they got an outcome which meant that they were saving over £1,000 a year by just turning their kit off and reducing their carbon footprint,' he added.

The Yorkshire GP said that after using the calculator another surgery had identified that they were using too much energy to heat their premises. As a result they introduced a building management system, which allowed them to reduce the number of hours they had to heat the practice.

‘Even though gas prices went up this year, their bills fell by 10% because they had put a plan in place - a technological solution - to reduce their usage. Once you start measuring your numbers and seeing where your money's going from an energy point of view, it starts to make a difference.’

Aligning the start times of practice staff and encouraging them to travel together was another method used by the practice to reduce its carbon footprint after using the calculator, Dr Sawyer explained.

Medical prescribing

‘Across the board there are immediate gains from both an environmental point of view, but also from a practice finance point of view,' he added.

A report published by the BMA last June revealed that prescribing was estimated to account for 65-90% of the carbon footprint of general practice. Staff travel was another main contributor to practices’ overall carbon footprint identified by the report.

The paper also predicted that the profession could become carbon neutral by the start of 2030 under a 10-point plan, which includes reducing inappropriate prescribing and switching to low-carbon inhalers.

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