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Caring for the future: How carbon management software can support delivering a net zero NHS

Climate change is a global health threat. For the NHS, adapting to climate change means providing first-grade care while creating organisational resilience in the face of health impacts of skyrocketing temperatures, air pollution and risk of diseases and avoidable illnesses. 

Responsible for around 4% of England’s total carbon footprint and around 40% of all public sector emissions, the NHS plays an indispensable role in fighting climate change and for the UK to become a net-zero society. 

The impact of this role has been recognised. In October 2020, the NHS became the world’s first health service to commit to reaching carbon net zero. On 1 July 2022, the NHS became the first health system to embed net zero into legislation through the Health and Care Act 2022.  

This places duties on NHS England’s Trusts and Integrated Care Boards to contribute towards statutory emissions reporting and environmental targets. To support the NHS netzero ambition, each Trust and Integrated Care System should have a Green Plan which sets out their aims, objectives, and delivery plans for carbon reduction. 

Decarbonising the NHS is a monumental undertaking. Each estate is unique in their requirements, geographical setting and the communities they care for. Providing care also carries environmental impacts, from powering buildings to prescribing medicines. 

In their aim to become the first net-zero health service in the world, the NHS has two targets: 

  • Net zero by 2040 for the emissions that can be controlled directly (the ‘NHS Carbon Footprint’) with an ambition to reach an 80% reduction by 2028 to 2032; 
  • Net zero by 2045 for the emissions that can be influenced (the ‘NHS Carbon Footprint Plus’), with an ambition to reach an 80% reduction by 2036 to 2039. 

Carbon management is about understanding where an organisation’s greenhouse gas emissions are generated, and then reducing them to the minimum in a targeted and sustainable way. 

Following Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP) standards, emissions are classified into one of three ‘scopes’, separated according to the level of control an organisation has over the source of an emission. The Greenhouse gas emissions created by NHS operations include: 

  • Scope 1: direct emissions from fuels combusted for heating buildings and powering fleet vehicles, and the use of anaesthetic gases. 
  • Scope 2: indirect emissions from purchased electricity.  
  • Scope 3: indirect emissions from sources such as waste disposal, business travel, and the procurement of goods and services. 

NHS organisations across the country are already taking impactful steps to decarbonise their estate, operations and wider supply chain. For any kind of decarbonisation effort to succeed, progress must be tracked, reported against and revalued if required. 

All this leads to a massive amount of data to collate, measure and report on. All the while a small team or single person often plays a major role in implementing a Trust’s Green Plan and supporting wider decarbonisation programmes. 

This is where software support comes in. Here are some examples how a carbon footprint management software can support an NHS organisation’s decarbonisation efforts: 

  • Establish a baseline. Impactful decarbonisation is founded on data.  Accurate, comprehensive and current data sets the starting point for your efforts, pinpoints your progress and allows ambitious but achievable steps towards reaching your targets. SystemsLink’s Energy Manager software allows monitoring and analysing of all utilities, including electricity, gas, water, oil and waste. 
  • Support your reporting. NHS organisations require energy usage data for various reports, including Estates Returns Information Collection (ERIC). SystemsLink’s Data Automation service automatically transfers Mandatory Half Hourly, AMR and BEMS data from Data Collectors and other metering providers to your software package. 
  • Stay in the know. Knowing your consumption also allows for efficiency opportunities and wasteful practices to be identified and addressed. For example, a Smart Spaces alarming system will alert site contacts when potential energy wastage is identified. 
  • Make your invoice validation more efficient. NHS estates are often large and complex. This leads to many invoices. SystemLink’s PDF Auto tool allows any supplier’s invoices to be converted into a simple output file for your bill validation and reporting system. Instead of spending time on entering invoices manually, the NHS can actualise the benefits of a cloud-based and easy-to-use solution. The SystemsLink software is also compatible with group electronic invoice files, such as EDI, Excel and HTML. 
  • Meeting your interim and ultimate goals. For the colossal commitment to decarbonise the NHS to remain on track, data must be accurate, accessible and extensive across an organisation. An effective web reporting system allows individual users to zero in on a single site or a group of sites to the level of detail required. If there are multiple sites, site league tables allow you to see how each site is performing and easily compare them to each other. 
  • Present your progress effectively. All decisions within the NHS are made with public money. Therefore, Trust Boards and other decision-makers must be presented with meaningful data to champion decarbonisation actions and progress. SystemsLink’s experts have helped many organisations to effectively present energy management data to stakeholders. 


The possibilities of how a carbon emissions management software can support your organisation don’t end there either. The SystemsLink team has got the experience and expertise to support you in tailoring your software package for your organisation’s needs. 

We are an approved supplier on the Crown Commercial Service’s G-Cloud 13 framework and our team currently supports over 20 NHS Trusts. If you would like to know more, please contact us at sales@systems-link.com   


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