Green at Barts Health blogs

Green at Barts Health


We respond to Liveable Streets schemes consultation

We, alongside our NHS partners in Tower Hamlets, wrote to Mayor Rahman in response to the Liveable Streets schemes consultation. Our letter was written on behalf of the communities of Tower Hamlets and representing the thousands of NHS colleagues who live, work and study in the borough.

The CEO of the Royal London Hospital wrote to the then Mayor of Tower Hamlets in 2020 recognising the progress being made in making the borough a healthier place to live and asking the borough to implement the latest DfT and TfL guidance on liveable street measures in response to a significant rise in the number of NHS colleagues walking and cycling to work and in response to worsening air quality indicators as traffic levels returned to above pre-covid levels. 

The Tower Hamlets “Liveable Streets” programme was welcomed by NHS partners. The quick introduction of pilot schemes that became permanent along with an overarching strategy to roll out across 17 neighbourhoods that would cover 60% of the borough demonstrated a significant commitment to implementing policy that would deliver tangible public health, environmental and social benefits. 

The implemented schemes were consulted on extensively and have only been fully in place since 2021. We note the increasing evidence base that recognises “liveable neighbourhood” measures have a range of different and interconnected impacts, however the evidence suggests that these are largely positive, and it is in the medium to longer term where most of the benefits become apparent. 

The most recent Healthy Streets Scorecard highlights once again Tower Hamlets has the lowest car ownership rates of any London borough. 71% of households in the borough don’t have a car and most trips are made by walking, cycling and public transport. Yet those living, working or studying in Tower Hamlets are exposed to the fifth worst air quality of any London borough regularly exceeding WHO safety limits. This disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in our society and acts to widen existing health inequalities in the borough. 

We are concerned by the proposals to reverse elements of the Bethnal Green, Bow, Wapping, and Brick Lane schemes. To provide an informed view, we would request data and information regarding statements made in the consultation to be published and consider it important to compare with data from more established schemes in Waltham Forest and Hackney for example. Without sufficient time or data, our view is that it is a challenge to undertake a further consultation where insufficient information is available to provide an informed view. It is important for us to understand how these proposals align with our agreed North-East London ICS Green Plan and that it pays sufficient regard to the London Plan and national policy. 

Our organisations have both declared climate emergencies and share many common objectives. Prioritising walking, cycling and public transport while reducing through traffic in neighbourhoods are now recognised as necessary measures in our response to both climate change and health inequalities. We call on Tower Hamlets to maintain its commitment to enabling more sustainable journeys, improving air quality and road safety.

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  • To our podcast where we spoke to three guests for a panel discussion on clean air, exploring the impact of air pollution on our health.


Going green for June

Join the conversation

Sustainability Webinar 8 June

Watch our webinar from NHS Sustainability Day, where we talked about energy - the price of it, the problems it causes, and how fuel poverty is affecting our patients. 

Watch the recording

Active Travel Webinar 16 June 6-7pm

Join us on Clean Air Day to discuss one of the most important ways to clean up our air – through Active Travel!

Active Travel is defined as using the human body to make journeys. This could be walking, cycling, jogging, unicycling, swimming… and mixed methods of travel including public transport.

We have a panel of experts ready to share their experiences and provide guidance, including:

  • Cycling Superhero Kamar Omar, (@auntiekay28) on twitter
  • Emma Richards, co-chair of our Women’s Network
  • Participant in our Car Free June Challenge - plus other guests!

The session will be hosted on Microsoft Teams.

Keep an eye out for our next podcast episode of Treating You coming out on 16 June

We will be joined by respiratory doctor and co-chair of Green at Barts Health Anna Moore, Councillor Clyde Loakes of Waltham Forest, and Newham resident Kevin White.

This will be a discussion on the effects of air pollution to your health and how it's impacting residents in east London, and what's being done to tackle this with the implementation of low traffic neighbourhoods.

You can listen on all popular streaming platforms

A greener trust: what we’ve done and what we’ll do

As one of the biggest NHS trusts in London, we have a responsibility to be greener and more sustainable for the benefit of our staff, patients and the general public. In recent years, we’ve made big strides to do this and have plans on the horizon to go even further.

Carbon emissions

Since 2007, we’ve reduced our carbon emissions by 39%. And we’re working hard to reduce them even further, which will be helped by positive changes we’re making, like 40% of our new patient transport fleet being hybrids.

“We’re making progress,” explains Rob Speight, Director of sustainability at Barts Health. “But we need to do more, in particular around our indirect carbon emissions.

“Indirect carbon emissions are those that come from medical, surgical imaging and radiotherapy equipment and services, dressings and more. So not activities you’d usually think would produce carbon. Right now, ours are 210,000 tonnes per year and swamp our direct emissions, those that come from activities like patient transport, energy use and waste 3:1. We have to change this.”

Reducing waste

We’ve done a lot to reduce waste in recent years and have won two HSJ awards, recognising our efforts.

A big way we’ve done this is by pioneering a clinical waste treatment plant at Whipps Cross since 2016. This plant processes all of the hospital’s clinical waste on site, which dramatically reduces their final waste output and reduces the amount of waste going to incineration. It also saves approximately 26,000 miles in transport every year, which in turn, means fewer carbon emissions.

“Another big improvement we’ve made in reducing waste is around bulk waste,” says Rob. “We’re work with partners to reuse and repurpose big waste items like sofas and tables. And anything we can’t reuse or repurpose, we give to charities or healthcare systems in other countries, rather than send them to landfill. Altogether, this means that every year, we stop 80 tonnes of big waste items going to landfill and we save £35,000 every year.”

Other achievements

Some other achievements we’ve made in becoming greener and more sustainable include:

  • Replacing 9,000 light fittings with LED lights across the trust. This has environmental benefits and saves us money in the long rung too.
  • Improving cycling facilities across the trust with support from Barts Charity, including a new cycle hub at Newham, Whipps Cross and St Bartholomew’s, which will facilitate staff not taking public transport.
  • Our reverse vending machines at the Newham and Whipps Cross renal dialysis units recycle ~2000 empty plastic bottles every year which equates to around 15 tonnes of HDPE plastic being recycled.

Barts Health sustainability achievements

The future is green

Plans we’ve got to become greener and more sustainable include:

  • Publishing our new Green Plan and Active Travel plan in the New Year, which will outline what we need to do and how we’ll do it
  • The new Whipps Cross redevelopment is planned to be carbon-neutral from day one
  • Working to invest £16 million in Newham Hospital to de-carbonise it completely from burning fossil fuels

“We’re making progress, but we’ve still got more to do,” says Rob. “Becoming a greener trust is a big task but it is everyone’s responsibility. Each and every one of us can do a little bit to make a real difference and I encourage you all to think about what you can do and share you pledge with others.

If you’re interested in helping Barts Health become a more sustainable trust, why not join the Green@BartsHealth network . And make sure you make your pledge , outlining how you’re going to be more sustainable.

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Live car free for June

Challenge yourself to live car free for the first two weeks of June, leading up to Clean Air Day on 16 June. Swap everyday journeys you would normally do by car for walking, cycling or public transport.

We’re looking for people who normally drive some journeys, so that taking part in car free June can provide an idea of life without a car – and any potential benefits or barriers to this. The reason for this is that road vehicles are the single biggest cause of London’s huge air pollution problem – so as individuals, reducing our car use can make a real impact on our air quality.

We have 14 Brompton Folding Electric Bikes to lend to staff for the challenge. Live in a hilly area? No problem – the motor will assist you to cycle along in style. Live far from work? No problem – the bike folds down really small for train travel. 

Up for it? Contact the Green at Barts Health team for more information and to sign up!

What's in it for you?

Evidence shows that a third of journeys under 2km in London are taken by car. But what’s in it for you if you swap?

  • Saves time: 2km is a 30-minute walk or 10-minute bike ride. In traffic, driving 2km can take much longer in a car! 
  • Saves  money : no more parking fees, no need to spend £££ at the pump, get your exercise done while your travel instead of forking out at the gym
  • Saves lives: increased cycling and walking prevents early deathsCycling in particular is fantastic for health, reducing the risk of cancer by 45% and heart disease by 46%. The risk of injury is outweighed by benefit to health by 20:1
  • Great for your mental health and wellbeing: compared with car travel, active commuters have significantly better overall psychological wellbeing
  • Reduce your air pollution exposure: as well as being emission free, an active commute can also reduce your own exposure to air pollution 

What if:

…I’m not confident cycling on the roads?

  • London Cycle Campaign can provide support from Cycle Buddies for NHS staff to help you ride confidently and find a safe route to work. 

…I don’t know how to find the best route to work?

…I don’t have a helmet? 

  • We can help you find all the equipment you need – lights are already integrated onto the bikes. 

How else can you get involved with living sustainably?

If it’s not possible this time or you already live car free, please do join us for our other Clean Air Day events, including a whole trust car swap challenge (without the commitment to be completely car free!), webinars, a podcast and other activities which we can share with you shortly.

There are also various options in London to hire e-bikes for short periods to try them out: try PeddleMyWheels, or CarryMe Bikes, and if you need a confidence and skills boost, the London cycling campaign run a Cycle Buddies scheme especially for NHS staff.

Find out more

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