03/04/2023 | Press releases

Going green in our theatres

Colleagues in our operating theatres at Colchester Hospital have introduced a range of innovative measures to reduce their environmental impact – including stopping the use of a highly-polluting greenhouse gas.

An energy-efficient patient warming system called ‘HotDog’, stopping the use of the anaesthetic gas desflurane and moving to recyclable trays for medicines have all been introduced as moves to be greener.

blonde-haired woman smiling at camera wearing blue scrubs with landyard saying 'doctor'

Dr Becca Elson

Dr Becca Elson, Centre for Sustainable Healthcare fellow and junior clinical fellow in anaesthetics / ICU, has been spearheading green improvements in operating theatres at Colchester Hospital.

She said: “Desflurane, an anaesthetic gas, is incredibly bad for the environment – it’s a greenhouse gas and is 2540 times more potent than carbon dioxide. We know it’s a contributor to global warming and remains in the atmosphere for 14 years. Removing desflurane from Colchester Hospital has a potential carbon saving of around 140,000kgCO2e per year.

“Instead, we are now using alternatives such as sevoflurane, a significantly greener gas, and intravenous anaesthesia which has a smaller carbon footprint and can also reduce post-op nausea.”

Dr Elson and her colleagues are looking into a variety of other ways to reduce the carbon footprint within the operating teams.

Blue plastic tray with syringes

Washable drug tray

She added: “Washable drug trays can be used hundreds, if not thousands, of times rather than cardboard ones that have to be incinerated – helping to reduce carbon emissions, and we’re looking into other ways we can be more environmentally-friendly in how we work.”

The team has also introduced a new energy-efficient patient warming system, called HotDog, into main theatres. This system uses electricity to silently warm blankets which can be wiped down and reused between patients.

Hospital bed with blue cover and machine next to it

The HotDog system

It replaces hot air warming, which was noisy, more expensive and energy-intensive to run and required a new single-use blanket made of paper and plastic for every patient.

The NHS as a whole has a commitment to be carbon net zero by 2040.

Changes have already been made across ESNEFT as part of their Green Plan, including re-using sharps boxes, recycling food waste, introducing energy-saving LED lights and encouraging environmentally-friendly ways to travel to the hospitals.

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