National Strategy for NHS Eco-Sustainability

Achieve net zero service by 2040.

A new national strategy, aimed at making the NHS environmentally sustainable, has been launched at Scotland’s first new low-carbon hospital.

Balfour Hospital, in Kirkwall, Orkney, is fully electric with air-to-water heat pumps generating all hot water and heating, and has solar panels to reduce grid dependency.

NHS Scotland’s Climate Emergency and Sustainability Strategy targets five areas crucial to achieving net zero:

  1. buildings – make sure they are well insulated, efficient and use renewable heating systems
  2. travel – low-emission electric vehicles and making it easier to get staff and visiting patients to NHS sites by public transport or bicycle
  3. goods and services – reduction of emissions in the supply chain, reduction of goods and materials used as well as reduction of the use of single-use instruments
  4. care – reducing the use of drug emissions such as metered dose inhalers or anesthetic gases
  5. communities – how to help communities adapt to climate change and encourage them to use green spaces in hospital grounds

Starting next year, reports will be published annually on the progress made in implementing the strategy.

Visiting Balfour Hospital, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said:

“As we continue our efforts to advance the recovery of health and social services after the challenges of the past two years, we must think long term about how to make services more sustainable. With such a large field, environmental sustainability is a key part of it for the NHS, so I am delighted to be able to launch this strategy today.

“Our approach will help us build on the great work that has already been done to accelerate our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become environmentally responsible. Besides the environmental impacts, I am also very mindful of the recent increase in energy prices, and there is a clear benefit to reducing energy consumption and increasing efficiency in everything we do.

“To achieve the necessary transformational change, we must establish a culture where resources are protected and used responsibly. With that in mind, I was really impressed with what I saw in Orkney. The team here offers innovative ways to ensure they have low carbon emissions.

Michael Dickson, NHS Orkney Chief Executive, said:

“We were delighted to show Mr Yousaf the fantastic facilities we have here in Orkney. It is a testament to the whole community of our commitment to building a sustainable future.

“We are proud to be at the forefront of new hospitals and healthcare buildings, with sustainability at the forefront of planning.”


NHS Scotland’s climate emergency and sustainability strategy aims to make the NHS environmentally sustainable

NHS Orkney is further reducing emissions through its trial of an on-site treatment facility to handle low-risk clinical waste, which was previously sent to the mainland for treatment.

Balfour grounds are also used for the benefit of the community, providing space for staff, patients and the wider community to rest, relax, recuperate and conduct recreational gardening activities.

Emissions from buildings in NHS Scotland’s local health boards have fallen by 64% between 1989/90 and 2020/21.

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