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17th Jan, 2022

'Gas man' Paul helping to green Trust's use of anaesthetics

Tristan Harris 14th Nov, 2021 Updated: 14th Nov, 2021

HOSPITALS across the county are reducing their carbon footprint, thanks to the green dream of one Worcestershire consultant anaesthetist.

Dr Paul Southall and his colleagues in Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust theatre department have been using alternative surgical options to do their bit to tackle climate change.

Across the NHS, anaesthetic gases are commonly used in everyday surgeries, putting patients to sleep and managing pain. These gases alone are responsible for over two per cent of all NHS emissions.

Dr Southall and his colleagues have reduced the use of desflurane which has 20 times the environmental impact of other anaesthetic gases – using one bottle has the same global warming effect as burning 440 kg of coal.

Desflurane made up just 4.8 per cent of anaesthetic gases used at Worcestershire’s hospitals in the last 12 months, down from to 30 per cent in 2014/15.

It is the biggest decrease among hospital trusts in the West Midlands, is well below NHS England’s national target of 10 per cent and makes Worcestershire Acute one of the top performing trusts in the country.

Dr Southall, who recently attended the Greener NHS regional roadshow as a guest speaker, to share best practice, said: “Caring for our planet, is caring for our patients.”

He now plans to get it below two per cent then to zero, through continued teaching and the early adaptation of new technologies.

Discussions are under way about modifying anaesthetic machines so nitrous oxide can be used via cylinder, rather than pipeline, reducing the cost to the trust and the environment.

Gas capture units, which absorb vapours before they reach the atmosphere – are also being explored. They re-use the nitrous oxide captured from the vapours.

Other schemes being worked on include reducing single-use plastic cups and rewriting county-wide asthma guidelines to encourage prescription of dry powder inhalers, rather than the common ones which have a significant impact on the environment.

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