For Global Recycling Day on 18 March 2022, Peter Carpenter, Service Delivery Director at Kent Surrey Sussex AHSN talks about the role of the AHSNs in helping the NHS move towards its net zero ambitions. He also introduces the practical application of Hexitime, a time-banking solution which enables people to connect and exchange professional expertise on common problems and the launch of four new campaigns on the platform to support the green agenda in the NHS.

Climate change is accelerating and poses a major threat to our health as well as our planet. Responding to this growing threat, in October 2020 the NHS became the world’s first health service to commit to reaching carbon net zero by 2040.

The AHSN Network is supporting this work by connecting people, sharing best practice and working to support projects that will enable health and social care to become more sustainable while continuing to improve care quality and safety. There are a number of priority areas that have been set out, from green procurement, waste management to sustainable use of medications in respiratory medicine.

There are experts in sustainable healthcare provision and pockets of excellence across the country. For example, Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust’s long-running ‘Care without Carbon’ programme is an excellent example of how to think about the sustainability agenda in the context of service provision. It has connected the sustainability challenges with the way the organisation operates and provides care and support to patients.

AHSNs aim to support this work by spreading best practice and innovation that will help move the NHS towards its net zero ambitions. We will help to reduce unwarranted variation in the context of the green agenda and help to spread some of the great work that’s already taking place.

So what does this mean for innovation in the NHS?

Set out on page 35 of the NHS Net Zero strategy is a requirement for innovators to assess their green credentials when applying to any national innovation support programmes. The AHSN Network is working to ensure we understand the impact of the innovations we support from a sustainability perspective.

Strategically we are in the business of sharing best practice, collaborating and supporting local programme initiatives, but there’s an overarching theme of making sure that the green agenda is made meaningful in all the work we’re doing around innovation.

Bringing people together

We’ve set up a national community of interest (CoI) for the AHSNs which is enabling colleagues to share examples of best practice and take forward a number of projects. For example, we had more than 330 delegates attend a recent national webinar looking at best practice in green prescribing of respiratory medicines.

At KSS AHSN, we’ve teamed up with Oxford AHSN to employ a sustainability lead, recognising the priorities for the south east that have been set out by our regional Medical Director as SRO for the work. It’s about supporting ICSs with their green plans, providing additional hands-on programme support capitalising on the links that we already have, such as with the well-established Oxford Centre for Sustainable Healthcare Improvement.

ICSs have been asked to set out their plans to move to more sustainable health and social care provision. All the ICSs that we work with regionally have set up CoIs to support project work and the green agenda is being considered in everything from new refurbs and builds, to transport planning and staff travel, to waste management, to practices in green surgery, and looking at unnecessary prescribing of CFCs.

I believe the AHSN Network has a lot to contribute in this space and in support of the NHS Greener NHS team and to build on some of the momentum from COP26.

Connecting people via Hexitime to tackle the challenges of the green agenda

At KSS AHSN, we’re very excited to be working with the Hexitime team in the recognition that there is already a lot of expertise, knowledge and interest in this agenda and we want to harness that. Hexitime is a time-banking solution through which people can connect and exchange their professional expertise for free to work on common problems.

So on Global Recycling Day, we’re launching four campaigns on the Hexitime platform and particularly what we want to do is reach outside the NHS into the commercial and charitable sectors where there’s huge additional expertise and some great work that’s already underway.

Our campaigns are across four topics: greener surgery; biodiversity; waste management; sustainable food and nutrition. We are looking to tap into some of the “new power” that’s being fostered on the Hexitime platform and its networks.

It’s about recognising that to achieve change we need to think differently and work differently. The Hexitime platform offers a vehicle through which expertise and professional support can be exchanged to make a real difference in the way that the NHS is working to achieve its Net Zero ambitions.

Get sharing!

I’d really encourage everyone – whether you’re an expert or simply passionate about the green agenda – to get on to the Hexitime platform. It’s really easy to use and you can see the green campaigns there, and you’ll be able to share your ideas and expertise or simply ask for support with particular challenges that you face. One thing that we’ve seen with previous campaigns is people benefiting more than they’re giving from being part of the Hexitime community.

It’s really about creating and building that new power network for people to work collaboratively. That’s what this is about, very much in the spirit of what AHSNs are here to do – just act as an honest broker to enable change to happen, and that’s what Hexitime is all about too.

Find out more about KSS AHSN’s national campaigns on the Hexitime platform.

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