SoR calls for NHS to lead on green travel plans

New operational strategy commits Society to become carbon neutral by 2030

Published: 03 November 2021 Government & NHS

The SoR’s new operational strategy includes the commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030, writes Dean Rogers, the Society’s director of industrial strategy and member relations.

We are looking at what we need to change now because meeting the target will take time and we cannot put off starting any longer. The Government has a similar target and is lecturing other world economies about doing more quicker. However, our NHS – the nation’s single biggest employer with more than 1.7 million employees funded almost exclusively by the taxpayer – barely seems to have any plan.

It certainly lacks any sign of urgency and I suspect that saving the planet is not in most trust CEOs’ top five strategic priorities right now. For the UK to ever become carbon neutral the NHS must play its part. Its size and influence means this has to be a leading part. However, it’s also clear it needs partners to step up and help shape the NHS contribution. The SoR, as one of its key partners, has some ideas to get the NHS started.

Green Transport Plan

First we think all trusts/boards should be required to publish a Green Transport Plan for staff and patients. These should be co-produced and monitored in partnership with local staff forums. Local authorities and businesses can be encouraged to actively support outcomes.

Air pollution, in particular fumes from traffic, contributes to multiple illnesses. Yet how we get staff and patients to and from hospitals is a ‘car crash’. Poor public transport links, especially around late and early shift changes, were exposed by the pandemic. Government stepped in to waive parking fees for staff and their return have been a major source of staff resentment, costing some up to £25 a day.

Parking fees

If NHS employers are serious about staff recruitment and retention being a top priority, reintroducing parking fees looks ridiculously self-defeating and symptomatic of an unending willingness to ignore long-term pains and underlying problems if there’s a short-term sticking plaster available.

We are challenging parking fees but recognise there needs to be a strategic alternative long-term cure for the problem. School Travel Plans helped reduce childhood deaths on our roads. The way they were produced and monitored was a hugely effective way of promoting both road safety and environmental awareness. There is no reason to think this same idea could not have a similarly educating and nudging impact in the NHS.

During the pandemic, several trusts/boards developed innovative staff Park & Ride systems. Others adopted shuttle buses from public transport hubs. In areas where people have to drive, we would also like to see the NHS use its collective commercial power to incentivise electric vehicle use. Travel plans can help capture and share best practice, promotion and generate sponsorship. Doing this in partnership promotes accountability.

If your trust/board improved its travel support during the pandemic, let us know so that we can promote positive practice. Email [email protected], heading the email NHS Transport Plan.

Image via Getty Images