Quick Steps That Can Improve Your Environmental Impact

In recognition of the danger that the climate emergency poses, RCSEd has put together the ‘Sustainability Champions’ group to devise practical solutions to help the surgical profession understand & reduce its environmental impact. The group have provided quick steps you can implement into your day to day life and practices. Also, how to influence your colleagues and trusts to take the first step into a greener and more sustainable surgery. Take your first step today!

Step One

Carbon FootprintThe most efficient way to reduce the footprint of surgery? reducing the number of patients going to theatre! through health prevention, patient education & use of local anaesthesia where possible. Using a procedure room and equipment borrowed from theatres will significantly lower your footprint


Step Two

Surgical Gowns

36,593,000 surgical gowns were used in the NHS in 2020. Re-usables allow us to cut down on our emissions, water, and energy consumption. Could you introduce re-usable gowns and drapes in your Trust? There are lots of British suppliers ready to help!


Step Three

Commute to work

1/8 cars on the road are related to NHS travel & Staff Commute accounts for 4% of the whole NHS carbon footprint!

Not only will active travel make you healthier, but it will also make your patients healthier too! Does your patient need in person follow up or can it be virtual? Could you arrange the scans on the same visit? how about setting up a 1-stop clinic for your service? Can your department meetings be online too?


Step Four


Consider making small changes to your practice: Using sutures instead of skin clips, eliminates a single-use item from your surgical equipment and may avoid the patient an unnecessary trip to have the clips removed, saving travel emissions, and freeing up a healthcare professional’s time for another patient! You can also try lowering your pneumoperitoneum pressure, check packaging is recycled, switch water off between scrubs, switch the theatre setting to OOH at the end of the day. Can you think of others?


Step Five

32% of the carbon footprint of an operation is caused by procurement:  how about trying some of NEW re-usable items? is there anything on your set that could be swapped too re-usable? Metal kidney dishes and gallipots? re-usable ports? Refillable ligaclips? New hybrid lap scissors?


Step Six

Talk to industry reps about what they are doing to tackle the climate crisis? Do they have recycling and re-purposing schemes? can their packaging be recycled? can transportation be reduced? Do they use air freight at all within the supply chain? From April 2023, all NHS tenders will be requiring a 10% scoring value associated with social value and NET zero contributions... Time to get cleaned up!


Step Seven

greenhouse gases

Desflurane is 20x more potent than Sevoflurane as a greenhouse gas - releasing 886 vs 49 kg CO2equivalent emissions/canister. Each canister of Desflurane represents the equivalent of 2,227 miles driven by an average car vs 123 miles for Sevoflurane. Do you know what your patient is having?



Step Eight

surgical cap

Why not treat yourself (& your team?) to your very own surgical hat? This will help reduce the millions of single-use theatre hats the NHS gets through every year, saving the planet at the same time! if your name is emblazoned on it, you might even increase patient safety by improving communication, flattening the hierarchy & reducing confusion, and they boost morale too!



Step Nine

alcohol gel

Hand washing with alcohol gel has a much lower carbon footprint than an old-fashioned water scrub! And you don’t get your scrubs soggy!




Step Ten

Lead by example outside of theatre: bring your own cup/water bottle, avoid single-use plastic, try reducing your meat and dairy intake, switch off the lights & your computer at the end of the day.



Step Eleven

The NHS used 5,492,770,000 single-use gloves between 2020/2021. Cutting out unnecessary glove use can significantly reduce our carbon emissions and is better for your hands and for patients! Gloves are only necessary for contact with bodily fluid, non-intact skin, or mucus membrane. for routine examinations, hand washing/alcohol gel will do! So, could you cut some out?

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