An eye on sustainability | News from Whipps Cross Hospital

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An eye on sustainability

Whipps Cross Hospital's ophthalmology team has been selected as a case study for Health Education England's e-learning module ‘Environmental sustainability in healthcare’.

Clinical Network Director Sudeshna Patra said, "amidst the daily challenges of the Covid-19 second wave, it was a pleasant surprise to be selected as a case study...It was an opportunity to showcase our work from the Green Ward competition, enabling others to learn from our positive experience."

Eye testing

The new e-learning module is being developed by CSH working with HEE and will be available to all NHS staff via e-Learning for Healthcare from mid-March 2021.

The aim of the 25-30 minute module is to provide basic awareness of the climate and ecological emergency and its impact on health, the NHS commitment to net zero and the role of health professionals in achieving this.

The purpose of the case studies is to show that health professionals are already taking action in a range of settings, to show that this is practical, achievable and compatible with providing good patient care.

The project ‘Keeping Patients Awake & Safe for Cataract Surgery’ emerged from the simple observation by the theatre team that at least 1-2 cataract surgery cases per week were being converted from GA to LA on the day of surgery. In addition to the use of environmentally harmful anaesthetic gases, GA patients require more hospital visits, additional investigations & longer hospital stays. General anaesthesia is also associated with higher risks than local. It was felt that the decision for type of anaesthetic should be made earlier on in the pathway and with a greater focus on improved patient engagement.

Eye testing

The project was an awe-inspiring team effort which involved the whole ophthalmology team including clinicians, pre-op assessment nurses, theatre nurses, operating department practitioners (ODPs), anaesthetists and of course the patients. The team also had support from CSH to help calculate the impact of the project.

The impact the project had on the triple bottom line and the opportunity to introduce the principles of SusQI were possibly what gave us the winning edge in the Green ward competition. Rates of GA in cataract surgery are low but they can be reduced further and deliver wider benefits, as was demonstrated by the project. There was a significant reduction in CO2 emissions as a result of less waste and not using harmful anaesthetic gases and a substantial financial saving of £162K per annum due to the reduced cost of equipment, workforce & investigations.

Looking at social sustainability, patients benefitted from improved engagement and shared decision making, fewer disruptive visits to hospital for pre-operative assessments, and leaving hospital earlier – as less time was needed in recovery after an LA.

Staff benefitted from working together as a team towards a common goal and from the empowerment of being able to lead the transformation. Clinical outcomes were not measured, but there were perceived benefits relating to reduced risks from GA, reduced waiting time due to the streamlined pathway and a reduced risk of Covid transmission as GA is an aerosol generating procedure.

A key take home message is that there are plenty of opportunities for sustainable healthcare solutions and by empowering the people on the ground you can be very successful in making a difference.

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