Cromwell Hospital has become the first private hospital in the UK to trial an innovative medical device which captures and recycles waste anaesthetic gases, preventing them from polluting the atmosphere. The trial was made possible through Bupa’s eco-Disruptive programme, which sees employees partner with sustainability start-ups to tackle environmental challenges.

About 95% of the anaesthetic used during surgery is exhaled by patients and released into the atmosphere as waste. This equates to 97,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year in the UK alone[1]. The SID-Dock, developed by SageTech Medical, can capture 99.9% of this waste anaesthetic, helping to reduce hospitals’ carbon footprint.

Sarah Melia, General Manager Health Services, Bupa UK said, ‘Sustainability is at the heart of Bupa’s purpose. We know that the health of the planet and people’s health are intertwined and it’s essential we’re looking after both. To do this, we need innovative solutions to the sustainability challenges we face, and our trial of SageTech Medical’s system is a good example of the steps we’re taking to become Net Zero.’

SageTech was one of six start-ups that made it through to the global final of the 2022 eco-Disruptive programme. Their unique circular economy solution not only reduces direct emissions, but they’ve developed purification technology to recycle the waste anaesthetic so it can be reused by hospitals. This means the volume of virgin drug that needs to be manufactured is also significantly reduced, conserving natural resources and reducing the associated emissions.

Iain Menneer, SageTech Medical CEO said, ‘It’s been fantastic to work with Bupa on this programme. Partnering start-ups with a big corporate organisation can help fast-track pioneering solutions in healthcare and we’re proud to work with Bupa and Cromwell Hospital to help advance their sustainability agenda.’

The SID-Dock fits easily and safely into hospital operating theatres, without having to make changes to any existing equipment. It works by capturing the waste anaesthetic breathed out by a patient during an operation. This is safely stored in canisters. When they are full, SageTech collect them from the hospital and take them to their processing facility where the captured anaesthetic is purified and recycled back into pharmaceuticals, ready to be used again by hospitals.

Mehnuhlik Lynch, Anaesthetic Team Leader at Cromwell Hospital is leading the trial. He said, ‘Clinicians are becoming more and more aware about the impact their clinical practice is having on the environment. Using SageTech’s solution, we can help reduce the carbon footprint of anaesthesia and give patients a greener choice for their healthcare. We’re really excited to be trialling this ground-breaking technology at Cromwell Hospital.’

This trial is another step on Cromwell Hospital’s sustainability journey. It’s working with Upcycled – Bupa Global & UK’s regional winner in the inaugural 2021 eco-Disruptive programme – to provide uniforms and scrubs made from waste plastic collected from the sea and landfill. The Hospital also runs on 100% renewable electricity and last year installed a new filter water system, saving 140,000 plastic bottles per year.

[1] Hu, X, et al, Resources, Conservation and Recycling 2021; Volume 167. The carbon footprint of general anaesthetics.

This story was covered by Sustainable Business Magazine.