It won't be news to you that the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties COP26 is underway in Glasgow.  

Climate change is resulting in poorer health outcomes, increasing mortality and is a driver of health inequalities. Recognising this, health has been chosen as a COP26 science priority area. The COP26 Health Programme has been established to bring stronger health focus and ambition to COP26. Countries are being asked to commit to:

  • Climate resilient health systems
  • Sustainable low carbon health systems 

How is the NHS responding to this?

At a strategic level NHS Scotland has committed to being a:

"Net-zero greenhouse gas emissions organisation by 2045, at the latest. This will require unprecedented change in how we work."

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Annual Report 2020–2021 

It is recognized that for real change to happen, activity must be taken at all levels of the healthcare system. Following an audit of the biodiversity and natural capital on its estate NHS Lothian is taking steps to respond to the climate crisis using its estate as a key asset. 

Let's start on the ground

The first Green Flag Award for a scottish hospital has been awarded to the grounds and gardens of NHS Lothian's  Royal Edinburgh Hospital. This is a significant achievement to celebrate.  It recognises the effort that many groups and people have put into the site over the years to make it a welcoming space that contributes to our fight against climate change. The award highlights the important role the NHS estate and greenspace play in creating climate resilient low carbon health system. 

This work would not have been possible without the support and hard work of staff, patient and third sector partners onsite including Art Link, Cyrenians, Edinburgh and Lothian Greenspace Trust, SAMH, The Conservation Volunteers and Volunteer Edinburgh. These organisations work together to support the hospital community to make the most out of the nature on the hospital’s doorstep.  

Ian Mackenzie, Green Health Programme Manager at Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation, said of the Green Flag Award:

"This is such a great achievement for the hospital to be recognised for its well-managed, natural spaces. These spaces not only form a key part of people’s recovery pathway, but have also become an essential asset for patients, staff and the local community. This collaborative approach to continuing to evolve the space to meet current and future healthcare needs will ensure nature continues to be at the heart of the site now and for years to come."

NHS Scotland Sustainability Conference 2021 and greenspace scotland

The NHS Scotland Sustainability conference takes place on 10 November to coincide with the COP26 Summit. The work and learning of greenspace scotland colleagues with NHS Lothian is being shared through two Innovation Cafes:
Climate change, biodiversity and health: a natural capital approach  (Ian Mackenzie, Green Health Programme Manager, NHS Lothian Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation)
Unlocking the potential of Green Health Prescribing for COVID-19 recovery  (Dr Rachel Hardie, Associate greenspace scotland;  former Consultant in Public Health, NHS Lothian )

Greenspace is our natural health service. As part of our Better Outside series of resources greenspace scotland gathered information and case studies to inspire action.

Health and Wellbeing Outside resource 

Photo credit: Will Collier - REH Cyrenians community garden