GF Blog 23 – Week 43

25th November

Writing post-op I raise a few thoughts on NHS impacts on the planet, leading to a brief report on recent Desalination meeting and ideas for new projects in 2024.

2 weeks back, on November 10th, when I was describing the mysterious pains I was experiencing, I am glad I did not know what was around the corner! On Tuesday 14th I had to give in and Lorraine, a very kind friend, took me to the big hospital in Truro for removal of my burst appendix.

Upon arrival at the recovery ward and a gradually re-awakening awareness of my surroundings, I was astonished to realise how fortunate I have been, in all my nearly 70 years, as this in-patient experience was something I have never had to deal with before. I carried with me vague memories of visiting my Dad, 30 years ago, when all the comforts were so mundane – the roast dinner, the little TV of your own, or in a small shared lounge, the clean sheets and warm blankets. If you were allowed out of bed then you could walk to open windows and watch the birds and drink in the fresh air. And, I imagine – although not as easy as home – there were good stretches of peace and quiet for sleeping at night.

Post-surgery was never going to be that easy, but all the comforts mentioned above except a roast dinner, were missing. Can you believe? I was offered the roast not once but twice as I awaited surgery, nil by mouth! My bed was a disaster. Electronically controlled, sometimes too hot, mostly too cold (so I was wearing a cardigan and draping a coat over the flimsy, cotton string blanket), the Automatic Ripple effect meant I never could find a relaxed position. And the final show of ‘technique’ was belching gusts of chemically disinfected air, supposedly disguised by an Hibiscus pong, which kept me in a constant state of nausea and – just this week – has been declared no more effective than pure water would be. What a joke!

Still, I have come through and feel determined to look after myself with real care, for a few weeks up to Christmas. Pause the rushing like a mad thing to change the world and let me take time making plans for 2024.

Discover how the NHS is becoming greener

Displayed in the Fowey Surgery waiting room
Graphic illustration from greener NHS website

In October 2020, the NHS became the world’s first health service to commit to reaching carbon net zero, in response to the profound and growing threat to health posed by climate change. The “Delivering a Net Zero Health Service” report sets out a clear ambition and two evidence-based targets. Thanks to NHS people, partners, and suppliers, we’re already on the way to building a greener NHS. One year on from setting out these targets, the NHS has reduced its emissions equivalent to powering 1.1 million homes annually. Together, we can achieve even more.

I am so pleased to see a page of info, with many local health trusts attempting to find new ways to deliver what is required – a great list. One area of particular relevance to myself is the anaesthetic gases, which cause great discomfort for days or weeks after an operation. Researching this topic is a team in Bristol – 

Recognising the impact climate change is having on the environment and the health of its people, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust has stepped up activity.

In addition to committing to take actions against single-use plastics, recycling, waste disposal, staff vehicle emissions and more, the trust sought to address the impact of anaesthetic gases.

The trust team have been encouraging the use of alternative surgical anaesthesia options to reduce the use of desflurane, such as switching to lower carbon alternative sevoflurane.

Staff at the trust have been supporting colleagues in using less harmful gases, with positive results.

I am very impressed by this short film report.

Another aspect that drove me to despair was the nutrition and food delivery. Apparently, a decision was taken relatively recently to out-source the provision of meals, although this is not confirmed on the hospital website. Whether internal or not, the system is failing – I could see immediately that a highly unsuitable dietary provision operates, especially in terms of portion sizes, with extreme quantities of waste, as a result. I very much hope the waste is taken to an Anaerobic Digester, but looking at the site and its surroundings, there is land behind which could be used to make such a centre right on the doorstep, thus creating a circular economy – waste food, into energy, back to run the buildings. Maybe at present it is taken to Holsworthy for processing, but that is not so perfect.

Collections of waste food from Devon and Cornwall businesses is carried out by Andigestion. The waste is taken to their own Anaerobic Digestion Facility in Holsworthy in Devon where it is processed to create methane gas which is then used in engines to create electricity which is fed back into the local Power Grid.

Is it feasible for a hospital to do this, I ask myself? Apparently the government is still behind the concept, as described in this October 24, 2023 report –

ADBA backs support scheme extension as mandatory food waste confirmed

The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) has welcomed the government’s decision to extend the deadline to apply to the Green Gas Support Scheme by two years. 

Simpler Recycling is on its way, throughout the UK and includes the universal collection of food waste. Gov.UK website includes hospitals in the list of business type premises that come under the legislation, so hopefully it is just a matter of time before a digester is created adjacent to a hospital site.

On reflection, who was Prime Minister pushing ahead with the Greener NHS and Simpler Recycling? I think it could well have been Boris. If so, it is a shame the story was not told. This seems to be a success so perhaps despite appearances, not every bad egg is as totally rotten as it first seems?!

Finally, upon researching, I discovered that a specialist company has installed Solar PV at Truro, on the roofs of 3 hospital buildings. The Solar array consists of 800 panels, connected to 7 inverters, but I cannot discover when it was installed, nor the amount of £s it saves in energy charges. I read that a different hospital has saved between £250K and £300K per month, by installing panels. What is not to love about that?  http://www.wattenergysave

System Type
Solar PV
System Size
185.6 kWp
Annual Output
193,372 kWh
Annual CO2 Reduction
<102,294 kg/year
“We were thrilled to be able to deliver such an important project, which contributes towards the Hospital Trust’s energy and carbon reduction plans over the next 20 years”

Chris Oxley, Operations Manager at Watt Energy Saver

Thursday 23rd Meeting

I imagine you won’t be surprised to learn I did not make it in person to the meeting.

But Cathy and Anthony Trodd were my ambassadors, THANK YOU! and reported back on a very fully attended session in a hot hall.

A power point presentation set out to answer the many audience questions and did so very thoroughly. Cathy’s comment was ‘I thought that South West Water’s case was very weak, not sufficient to justify all the environmental damage, let alone the expense- and this seemed to be the general opinion in the room. Apparently, their motivation is to obtain Ofwat funding, which is not available for something less dramatic, such as repairing leaks.” News of a previous enormous Desal project in Fawley, Hampshire, which was rejected after a public outcry, gave grounds for a little hope.

What comes next is a face-to-face session with SW Water on December 11th. I will share the full info as soon as it is available.

Coming next time

I hope to confirm some very good news, with regard to some people I have discovered operating a small business that imports bags and other items made of bamboo and supplied with never a hint of plastic packaging. It is a really heart-warming story, but I do need to wait for Royal Mail to deliver samples before I tell you, and you know how unreliable that could be! This could be such a lovely new and unique product to help our cash flow and marketing, in one fell swoop.

Also next time, perhaps, we may have heard something about the Cornwall Sustainability Awards. I have booked a seat, whether we feature or not. And so a quiet, sitting at home job for me is to make that ‘posh frock’ out of hessian sacking and attach onto it some green felt leaves and a few apple blossom flowers, left over from the Half Term project. You won’t catch me in a ball gown, no way!   

Louise has the skill to paint great images onto hessian (these date from 2017). But what can I do??

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