GPs urged to become 'green' commissioners

GP consortia should consider the environmental impact of commissioning decisions and not just their cost, the RCGP sustainability lead has said.

Dr Ballard: GPs have a role in the NHS carbon reduction strategy (Photograph: UNP)

Speaking ahead of this year's RCGP conference, which has sustainability as its theme, Wiltshire GP Dr Tim Ballard said GPs have a 'key role' in contributing to the NHS carbon reduction strategy.

Dr Ballard said GPs should take a 'twin track' approach to reducing emissions, through making practice premises more efficient and commissioning more sustainable care, such as moving it closer to home.

'GPs will be in a really interesting position where we will be able to influence the carbon usage of the system as well as financial costs of the healthcare system,' he said.

But Dr Ballard also warned against a solely legislative approach to reducing carbon in the NHS. 'The most effective approach is to win people over by principle,' he said. 'To go into the commissioning process and look at it as an opportunity to make a difference, rather than to tick boxes. If it is done purely through legislation, then the benefits you potentially secure would not be as great.'

Andrew Cooper, commercial property and energy consultant, said GPs wishing to form consortia will need to develop a 'fundamental understanding' of carbon management.

Meanwhile, research presented at the Health and Care Infrastructure Research and Innovation Centre conference in Edinburgh last month showed that moving care specialities closer to home can sharply cut carbon emissions.

Shifting 190,000 patient journeys closer to home could save more than five million kg of carbon dioxide across the whole system, it argued.

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