UCLH needs to reduce the amount we consume per patient, re-use and re-manufacture what we can and ensure that what we do use has minimal environmental impact. We also need to ensure our suppliers match our environmental ambitions.  

To achieve this, we will:  

• Ensure sustainability forms a greater part of our procurement decision making 

• Implement changes to meet or exceed NHS England’s procurement roadmap  

• Minimise the amount we procure and use per patient 

• Increase the number of products we reuse and remanufacture 

• Offer our patients and staff more sustainable food. 

Theatre hats (Instagram Post).pngUCLH is making the change from single use to named reusable fabric theatre hats for staff working in operating theatres. 

The switchover has been funded by UCLH Charity and has been approved by the UCLH Infection Prevention and Control Team.   

Theatre team members will be given their own personal supply of hats, plus a net bag to wash them in at home.  Each hat will display the name and job title of the team member, making identification easier within theatre.  

Reducing the purchase of single use items, including single use PPE, is a key focus of UCLH’s Net Zero Strategy Critical Care For Our Climate. The move to reusable hats will help to reduce the carbon footprint historically associated with the purchase and disposal of single use theatre caps, estimated at over 9,000 kg of carbon a year. 

The move is also expected to reduce costs by up to £32,000 per year. 

Having named hats will improve patient safety and experience as well.  

“There is evidence that communication between theatre team members improves when names and roles are easily visible”, explained consultant anaesthetist Dr Laura Elgie. “Plus, the move to personalised hats will also make it easier for patients to identify who they are talking to, which supports a better patient experience overall.”  

“We’re delighted to be launching these hats which have so many benefits for UCLH”, said sustainability transformation project lead, Joe Burton. “UCLH has been appointed the lead provider for reusable PPE by the North Central London Integrated Care Board and this project exemplifies how we are leading the way in this area.” 

An exciting new project to recycle packaging from single-use items is projected to reduce the waste being incinerated from UCLH theatres by around 215kg a year.

Historically, packaging from single-use surgical items can be difficult to recycle through standard recycling routes due to the packaging being made of mixed materials. The new recycling programme, delivered in conjunction with suppliers Johnson & Johnson MedTech and their partners, MYGroup and Resourcify, enables both metal and plastic components from suture foil packaging to be collected, sorted, and repurposed into new products. This is an NHS first. 

Special recycling bins made from recycled plastics have been installed in theatres. They are designed especially for this packaging, to reduce the potential for further contamination. Waste items are then returned to the supplier, where they are shredded and fed through an electrostatic machine to separate the metal from the plastic. The plastic is converted into ‘MYBoard™’ – a material similar in consistency to plywood – used for construction, shop fitting and joinery, as well as a wide range of products. Metal components are smelted back into aluminium for recycling into new products. 

The project shows that that there is no such thing as 'unrecyclable' waste, even from the most complex operating environments.

Patients visiting the emergency department at University College Hospital, The Grafton Way Building & UCLH Westmorland Street are now able to return their crutches to UCLH if there comes a time they are no longer needed. 

Historically, walking aids were considered a single-use item by suppliers, but with a carbon footprint of between 3 and 8 kilograms for each crutch, it was clear that a new process was required to support UCLH in its mission to become a net zero organisation by 2031. These have now been re-categorised so they can be re-used. 

As well as saving both money and carbon emissions, reusing walking aids is also likely to also be safer. Rather than patients passing them on to friends, all walking aids will be checked before going out again and those that are deemed not safe will be removed from circulation. 

Based on data from other NHS Trusts, it is estimated that could save up to £27,000 and 6,760 kg from entering the atmosphere per year. If successful, UCLH will look at rolling out the scheme to other departments and expanding the range of walking aids in the scheme to include wheeled walkers and walking sticks. 

We are committed to ‘buying green’ and have made sustainability a formal part of our procurement decision making, with a 10% weighting in favour of suppliers who operate sustainably, as laid out in PPN 06/20. 

We have also begun the process of engaging with our suppliers, ensuring that they are on board with our 2040 net zero target for all emissions. This involves all UCLH suppliers submitting their carbon footprint data to us via the SmartCarbon reporting platform. We plan to work closely with suppliers to trial low carbon products and support them to ensure a sustainable future 

Single-use PPE contributes to the waste that UCLH produces and in many cases forms a major part of the carbon footprint of the care we provide. UCLH is in the process of stepping up two trials of reusable products: theatre hats and face masks. We hope to scale up these trials in the future depending on how successful they are and look to trial other reusable PPE products and medical textiles, including drapes and curtains.  

You can read more stories in our Green Plan in Action 21/22 report.