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NHS IT procurement leaves solid carbon footprint

Strategy recommends greater CO2 monitoring

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ICT procurement for the health service in England produces carbon dioxide equivalent to that generated by 27,000 of its patients.

Such procurement produces 320,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, according to data released with Saving Carbon, Improving Health: A Draft Carbon Reduction Strategy for the NHS in England, published on 29 May 2008.

The draft strategy, which challenges the health service to cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, says greater use of IT could increase the health service's environmental impact, under a heading of "increased energy intensity of healthcare delivery".

However, it mentions teleconferencing as a way of cutting emissions from travel. Patients' travel produces 1.53 million tonnes and health service business travel 740,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

ICT procurement makes up just 1.7 per cent of the English NHS's total emissions of the main gas responsible for climate change, which totals 18.61 million tonnes – 30 per cent of the public sector's emissions, and 3.2 per cent of all carbon dioxide generated by England.

The research was not able to provide the additional emissions from ICT's share of NHS electricity use, which in total produces 2.31 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, due to a lack of individual metering of equipment. The researchers recommended sub-metering to improve understanding of electricity use.

The strategy is set to lead to greater monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions by the health service, although the efficiency of buildings and the carbon dioxide footprint of pharmaceuticals – the latter being responsible for 4.06 million tonnes of annual emissions – are more pressing areas for improvement. All health service trusts will have a carbon management strategy by 2009, and will produce annual reports on their progress on sustainable development.

The strategy document said that climate change was responsible for an estimated 150,000 deaths worldwide in 2000. It is the first work produced by the new NHS Sustainable Development Unit.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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