Could sustainable hospitals help an NHS in crisis?

The NHS is in a state of dismay. Junior doctors have gone on strike in a dispute with health secretary Jeremy Hunt over their contract. Members of the Conservative Party are hoping to remove ring-fenced funding dedicated to the NHS. And patients are being abandoned in hospital waiting rooms for hours before being seen.

These strains have stemmed, in part, from an interest in “efficiency targets” that aim to reduce spending by £20 billion.

Strikes from junior doctors signalled an institution at breaking point, not least because they mark the first strike action since 1975.

Throughout the walkouts, Hunt and the Conservative Party have maintained a hard line that junior doctors are putting patients at risk and, according to the Guardian, “portrayed the juniors as resisting modern working realities”.

Strike response

In response, the British Medical Association (BMA) has claimed, “We are prepared to speak to government at any time to try to resolve this on behalf of junior doctors. But it is not just one remaining issue.

“There are some serious issues about patient safety and recognition of junior doctors’ contribution that need to be sorted here, and the very fact that government documents refuse to acknowledge those issues is one of the things that makes the dispute more difficult to resolve.”

As Hunt and the BMA remain in a stalemate over negotiations, one section of people are being placed in the firing line – patients.

Thousands of people were forced to await surgery, while many sick people could be reticent to visit emergency rooms for fear they won’t be seen.

All this chaos begs the question – could sustainable hospitals repair any of the damage reaped on the NHS?

Green hospitals?

If every private healthcare waste contract, for instance, could ensure that biohazardous waste was recyclable, would budgets be lower?

Very possibly, although budgets have been slashed to such a large extent that the chances of a green hospital covering the shortfall in finances is slim.

However, various hospitals try their best to use renewable energy sources. Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, for instance, is receiving a $572 million redevelopment programme to create a hospital that’s brimming with green technology.

By the end of its redevelopment, the hospital will be replete with an under-floor heating system that can heat or cool the hospital and a generator that, along with heat recovery systems, will offset an estimated 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

Not only will these improvements reduce carbon emissions, but they’ll also reduce the cost of power consumption, creating a hospital that’s cheaper to run.

These are, of course, solutions that can only be implemented in the long run. Right now, as the NHS lies in crisis, junior doctors have to agree to new terms before anything else can be made sustainable.