National strategy for NHS eco-sustainability

Making the service net-zero by 2040.

A new national strategy, aiming to make the NHS environmentally sustainable, has been launched at Scotland’s first low-carbon new-build hospital.

The Balfour Hospital, in Kirkwall, Orkney, is fully electric with air-to-water heat pumps generating all hot water and heating, and has solar panels to reduce reliance on the grid. 

The NHS Scotland Climate Emergency and Sustainability Strategy targets five crucial areas for achieving net-zero:

  1. buildings – ensure well insulated, efficient and using renewable heating systems
  2. travel – low emission, electric vehicles and making it easier for staff, patients visitor to travel to NHS sites by public transport or bicycle
  3. goods and services – cutting emission in the supply chain, reducing the goods and materials used as well as reducing use of single use instruments
  4. care – reduce the use of emissions from medicines such as metered dose inhalers or anaesthetic gases
  5. communities – how to support communities to adapt to climate change and encourage them to make use of the greenspace in hospital grounds

From next year reports will be published annually setting out the progress made in implementing the strategy.

 Visiting the Balfour Hospital, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said:

“As we continue our efforts to push ahead with the recovery of health and social care after the challenges of the last two years, we need to think long-term about how to make services more sustainable. With such a large estate, environmental sustainability is a key part of that for the NHS, so I’m pleased to be able to launch this strategy today.

“Our approach will help us to build on the great work which has already been done to accelerate our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and become environmentally sustainable. As well as the environmental impacts, I am also very mindful of the recent increase in energy prices, and there is a clear benefit in reducing energy use and increasing efficiency in everything we do.  

“To achieve the transformational change that is necessary we need to establish a culture where resources are safeguarded and used responsibly. With that in mind I have been really impressed with what I have seen in Orkney. The team here are driving forward innovative ways to ensure they have low carbon emissions.”

Michael Dickson, Chief Executive of NHS Orkney Chief Executive, said:

“We have been delighted to show Mr Yousaf around the fantastic facilities we have here in Orkney. It is testament to the whole community how committed we are to building a sustainable future.

“We are proud to be leading the way in new hospital and healthcare buildings with sustainability being at the forefront of planning."


NHS Scotland Climate Emergency & Sustainability Strategy is aiming to make the NHS environmentally sustainable

NHS Orkney are further cutting emissions through their trial of an onsite treatment facility to handle low risk clinical waste, which was previously sent to the mainland for treatment.

The Balfour’s grounds are also being used for the community’s benefits giving a space for staff, patients and the wider community to rest, relax, recover and carry out recreational gardening activities.

NHS Scotland’s local Health Boards’ building emissions decreased by 64% between 1989/90 and 2020/21.


Media enquiries

Back to top