“In October 2020, the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust declared a Climate Emergency,” explains Care Group Manager and Sustainability Champion Roz Davies. “Since that time, the sustainability movement across the RCHT has flourished.”
Roz continues: “Within six months of our climate emergency declaration, we had a Board-approved, system-wide Green Plan in place, which lays out our journey to net zero. We have recognised the importance of staff engagement in our work, which has directly led to a number of projects being implemented by colleagues across all areas of our hospitals and out into the wider community of Cornwall.”
Over the past eighteen months, one area where the RCHT has been widely recognized is in its role of both implementing reusable PPE, as well as repurposing single use PPE.
“Our clearest impact so far has been with face masks,” Roz continues. “Consumption of single use surgical masks at our hospitals reduced by 46% following the introduction of reusable masks for non-clinical areas. We have also diverted a large proportion of our single use masks away from incineration by installing a polypropylene plastic melting machine to start the recycling process.”
The installation of the SteriMelt machine, initially for theatre tray wrap, has enabled the diversion of around one tonne of waste per month from clinical incineration. The machine has made it possible for the RCHT to melt tray wrap and single use face masks into solid polypropylene blocks.
“Thanks to a collaboration with the Cornish company Waterhaul, these blocks are now being turned into litter-pickers to further help clean-up the local environment, and 2 litter pickers are being sent to every college, primary and secondary school in Cornwall,” Roz adds. “Our goal, following the issue of our environmental permit by the Environment Agency, will be to open our facility to other local organisations and divert even more masks from final disposal.”
In addition to the mask melting machine and introduction of reusable face masks for non-clinical areas, the RCHT has also launched a trial of reusable masks in clinical areas. Other initiatives have also been introduced over the past twelve months, which have proven similarly successful.
“We try to partner with local companies where possible,” Roz continues. “The majority of our produce for our restaurants is sourced locally, which we are proud to promote, and we’re actively working with Suez, our recycling contractor, to ensure as much as possible is recycled, whilst also working with our procurement and innovation teams to find alternatives to single use plastics, bearing in mind that repurposing is far better than recycling. Further, a number of our colleagues have taken a proactive stance on sustainability, from challenging the disposable nature of clinical plastics to promoting virtual clinics by recruiting our first “virtual clinical nurse specialist.” Both initiatives have been featured in the Nursing Times, and also with the Health Care Against Harm organization.
Roz concludes: “The HSJ shortlisting is a great achievement for Sustainable RCHT, and a fantastic acknowledgement of all the hard work of the colleagues and companies that support us. The HSJ Awards are among the most esteemed accolades of healthcare service excellence, and one that consistently rewards innovation, best practice and improving outcomes, both for patients and the wider community.”
An official statement from the HSJ Awards reads: “Following one of the most demanding years on record for the NHS, the awards this year aim to shine a light on the outstanding efforts and achievements that teams across the country have delivered.” The awards ceremony will be held on the 18th of November 2021.