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Dr Joe Murray
The Environmental Performance of NHSScotland
Smaller Buildings



The environmental performance of National Health Service Scotland's (NHSScotland) smaller healthcare buildings were investigated with a view to identifying ways of reducing the environmental impacts of energy, waste, water and transport.

Energy emerged as one of the prominent issues. This was based on data taken from an energy audit of 180 buildings randomly selected from all NHSScotland health boards. A wide variance in energy consumption throughout the sample was discovered, which could not be explained by variations in fabric, structure, elevation and orientation of the buildings. It was believed a benchmark or similar suitable energy target could be an appropriate tool to help lower energy use in buildings of this class. Therefore, based on Building Research Establishment (BRE) baseline and good practice data for similar buildings, and including an allowance for patients' needs, an energy target was developed.

Research into waste and water issues showed that the disposal of prescription, and over the counter, medicines is highlighted as a problem area in Scotland. The research showed there could be over 300 tonnes of medicines being disposed of in Scotland every year with over 40% of these flushed into sewerage systems where sewage treatment plants have no means of removing them before emitting them into surface water systems.


The impacts of these pharmaceuticals alone can have serious adverse affects on non-target species but there is little known about the effects cocktail mixtures of these chemicals may have on the environment.

Further research was carried out on the awareness of management and staff of environmental issues and their behaviour towards such issues while at their place of work.

Results from a randomly selected group of 71 health centres and clinics showed that many healthcare workers who responded believe that climate change is happening with the majority of those blaming human society as the main cause; many also believe the trend can be reversed. A high proportion of respondents believe that power generation contributes to impacts on human health.

Given that NHSScotland's negative impacts on the environment are substantial, due mainly to poor environmental performance, investigation was carried out into how best to approach changing the culture within the organisation to help reach environmental targets and become sustainable in the long term.