Establishing a Sustainability Team and a Sustainability Lead within your endoscopy unit

Posted Sunday June 18, 2023

Climate change has emerged as the most significant global health threat of the 21st century, posing an existential risk to Aotearoa and the world. Healthcare, unfortunately, has contributed to its development, with healthcare activities accounting for up to 6% of national emissions. Among medical specialties, gastroenterology ranks as the third highest emitter, following surgery and anaesthetics (number one) and paediatrics and intensive care (number two). While some countries have taken significant steps towards decarbonization, others have been slower to act. Notably, the UK's NHS has committed to achieving net-zero directly controlled emissions by 2040 and net-zero supply chain emissions by 2045. In Aotearoa, the transition to Te Whatu Ora signals progress towards developing a national healthcare sustainability plan. However, as with any large organization, implementing changes can be slow.

Individuals, local units, and smaller societies can often make more achievable sustainability efforts within shorter timeframes while profession-wide changes require stricter evidence-based guidelines and protocols. With a relatively small membership, the NZSG is well-positioned to drive rapid change and has a moral imperative to do so.

In 2022, the NZSG established the Sustainability Working Group with a mission to promote sustainable practice in gastroenterology and endoscopy. The Group conducted a survey among our members at the end of last year, receiving 40 responses. While the number of respondents was low (approximately 20% of society membership), they represented a diverse range of healthcare professionals, including public and private consultants, trainee registrars, endoscopy nurses, and representatives from various subspecialties with a wide variety of clinical experience post-qualification. An overwhelming majority (80%) expressed concern about climate change. Surprisingly, only 19% reported having received previous education on sustainability practices, despite the majority expressing a desire for further training. Additionally, 79% believed that the NZSG should prioritise environmental sustainability in gastroenterology and endoscopy. Further details regarding the survey findings will be shared at the Annual Scientific Meeting in December 2023. With these findings in mind, the working group will publish a regular newsletter segment in the NZSG Panui, focusing on practical measures for sustainability in local endoscopy units.

This edition of the Panui focuses on the establishment of a Sustainability Team and a Sustainability Lead within your endoscopy unit. These roles should be filled by individuals who are motivated in the field, as persistence is often necessary to maintain momentum for change. The Sustainability Team includes representatives from doctors (preferably from both surgical and gastroenterology disciplines), nursing staff, decontamination teams, healthcare assistants, and any other staff involved in delivering care within the unit. The Sustainability Lead acts as a facilitator between similar groups within the hospital, waste management services, and management. It is advisable to meet at least quarterly to discuss projects, and having sustainability as a standing agenda item in the Endoscopy Users Group or endoscopy management meetings can be beneficial. The Sustainability Lead should clearly communicate sustainability goals or projects to the wider team to foster collaboration and engagement.

By working together and adopting sustainable practices, we can make a positive impact on our environment and contribute to a healthier future. Stay tuned for more updates and practical guidance on sustainability in upcoming editions of the NZSG Panui.

The NZSG Sustainability Working Group 


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