Newcastle Hospitals leads the way in reducing the use of plastics in patient and staff catering

Out with the old and in with the new: Sustainability officer Amy Johnston (left) with some of the disposable items which have been replaced with alternatives, shown by Trust catering manager Geoff Moyle.

Newcastle Hospitals is leading the way in reducing the use of plastics in patient and staff catering as a national drive to cut waste in the NHS was announced this week.

The Trust, which became the first NHS organisation in the world to declare a climate emergency in June, has removed almost 2million ‘single use’ items that would have been thrown away - in turn making savings of over £80,000 a year.

Disposable items such as bowls and lids, side plates, cutlery and straws have been replaced with reusable alternatives for patients at the Freeman Hospital and RVI while ‘single use’ takeaway plastics in staff canteens, including polystyerene boxes, cutlery, coffee cups and stirrers, have been swapped out for more sustainable environmentally friendly products.

The initiative is the latest of a number of positive changes Newcastle Hospitals has made over several years to ensure the delivery of truly sustainable healthcare.

This week NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens urged trusts with in-house catering to follow the example of retailers operating in hospitals and reduce the use of avoidable plastics by signing a campaign pledge to curb plastic waste.

He said: “It’s right that the NHS and our suppliers should join the national campaign to turn the tide on plastic waste. Doing so will be good for our environment, for patients and for taxpayers who fund our NHS. We’re pleased that as a first step, major retailers operating in hospitals have committed to cut their plastics, starting with straws and stirrers, cutlery, plates and cups.”

Newcastle Hospitals’ Head of Sustainability, James Dixon, said while the Trust had already taken steps to tackle the unnecessary use of single use plastics, further initiatives were being looked at including audits in clinical areas to identify opportunities to move to reusable items, where safe to do so. .

“We pride ourselves on a forward-thinking ethos and champion sustainability in everything we do at the Trust through our Sustainable Healthcare in Newcastle (Shine) brand, including a commitment to cut the use of plastics both on the wards and in our restaurants,” he said.

“This year, we also joined with our civic partners in Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University in declaring a climate emergency. By reducing our energy consumption, making more sustainable travel choices, minimising single use plastics and being more mindful about the resources we use, we can, as a healthcare organisation, make a real difference and empower staff to make sustainable choices for the benefit of our patients and wider population.”

The NHS Long Term Plan outlines a number of steps the NHS will be taking to reduce impact on the environment in other areas as well, including a shift to lower carbon inhalers and anaesthetic gases, as well as ensuring hospitals make progress in reducing waste, water and carbon to cut air pollution and save lives.

The Trust’s climate emergency declaration, made by the Trust Board on 27 June 2019, demonstrates a clear and positive commitment to take action on climate change by aiming to become carbon neutral by 2040.

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