A recent NHS survey showed that the health and social care system accounts for around 5% of the UK’s overall greenhouse gas emissions – not including the private sector. These emissions include things such as single-use medical equipment, anaesthetic gases, staff and patient travel, and energy use to operate buildings.
Bupa has pledged to become a net zero business by 2040 and, as part of the Bupa family, Cromwell Hospital is equally committed to building a more sustainable future. The hospital boasts its own sustainability group – The Green Team – which helps implement environmentally friendly solutions and educate other hospital employees on the importance of sustainability.
Anaesthetic gas recycling
Around 95% of anaesthetic gases are exhaled by patients and released into the atmosphere as waste. This is equivalent to 97,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year in the UK.
Cromwell Hospital has become the first UK private hospital to trial a new recycling system for anaesthetic gases, created by company SageTech Medical. The trial was made possible after SageTech Medical took part in Bupa’s eco-Disruptive challenge, which finds and supports start-ups in tackling environmental challenges.
A system called SID-Dock holds two cannisters (SID-Cans), which capture 99.9% of waste anaesthetic gases through adsorption onto a sustainable carbon material. When the cannisters are full, SageTech Medical collects and recycles the waste material back into pharmaceutical ingredients for future use.
The SID-Dock system fits effortlessly into operating theatres without the need for altering existing space or equipment.
Recycled medical scrubs
Upcycled Medical, another participant in the eco-Disruptive programme, produce scrubs from waste plastic found in the ocean. Over 14 million tonnes of plastic are released into the ocean every year, which has a devastating impact on marine life.
Upcycled Medical conducts clean-ups that remove waste materials including plastic, glass, rubber and metal from the ocean. These materials are then processed into small pellets, which can be bound into yarn for scrubs and other medical clothing. This yarn can also be recycled once it reaches the end of its life. Approximately seven to nine plastic bottles are saved from landfill and recycled per item of clothing.
Cromwell Hospital staff have been wearing recycled scrubs since 2021 in theatres, and since 2022 in the Intensive Therapy Unit.
Reusable medical trays
For infection control purposes, a lot of medical equipment is intended for single use. Unfortunately, medical waste is not eligible for recycling and must instead be incinerated.
To combat the amount of single-use medical trays being disposed of, Cromwell Hospital has opted to use reusable trays. These trays can easily be cleaned with a disinfectant wipe or sterilised in an autoclave if required.
To reduce cross-contamination risk and responsibly handle medications, the hospital uses different colour trays for different purposes – for example, emergency drugs are placed on yellow trays.
Since switching to re-usable trays, Cromwell Hospital has saved approximately 9000 single-use trays from going to landfill.
A laryngoscope is a piece of medical equipment used to examine the larynx (voice box). It is a small, thin instrument, with a video camera and a light at one end. The handle also contains lithium-ion batteries, which power the camera function.
In February 2023, Cromwell Hospital switched from single-use handles to reusable handles. Similarly to our reusable trays, these handles can be disinfected with a wipe or sterilised in an autoclave. They are also powered by reusable batteries, which can be recharged as required.
Per year, our reusable handles will save 1900 single-use handles from ending up in landfill.