Sustainable healthcare

The climate crisis is a health emergency

Climate change is the biggest threat facing human health and as stated by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, ‘there is an urgent need to address environmental sustainability in health to help tackle climate change’. 

The ongoing deterioration of planetary health is causing increasing ill-health and mortality through a variety of mechanisms [WHO Climate change and health factsheet]. Climate-related health risks such as extreme weather events and worsening air pollution have direct negative impacts on population health. Climate change also exacerbates pre-existing health inequalities and creates vulnerabilities within healthcare infrastructure, affecting the ability to deliver quality care. All these factors result in increased demands on health services.

Delivering on net zero

The delivery of healthcare services significantly contributes to the UK’s carbon emissions as well as wider negative environmental impacts such as pollution of air, water and soil.[1]

Recognising this, health services across the UK have committed to reducing their carbon emission with the aim of becoming ‘net zero’. 

These strategies outline the range of transformations required to reach the goal of net zero including innovations to estate and facilities, travel, supply chains, medicine, models of care and workforce. Within these plans there is recognition of the importance ‘to make sustainability a core consideration in quality improvement work and the planning and delivery of clinical services.’

Sustainable value

The SusQI Framework is a straightforward methodology which identifies four stages in the QI process at which sustainability can be considered and optimised.[2]

A step-by-step guide to adopt this framework can be found here.

Source: Centre for Sustainable Healthcare

The aim of SusQI is to maximise the sustainable value of healthcare services. Sustainable value represents a family of measures. A service may be high quality but low value. 

Source: Centre for Sustainable Healthcare

A high value SusQI project improves patient and population health outcomes whilst minimising environmental impact, neutralising financial impact and adding social value at every opportunity.

To learn more: Sustainability in Healthcare Webinar – Friday 12 January 2024 14:00.


1 Eckelman MJ, Sherman J. Environmental Impacts of the U.S. Health Care System and Effects on Public Health. PLoS One. 2016 Jun 9;11(6):e0157014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157014. PMID: 27280706; PMCID: PMC4900601

2 Mortimer F, Isherwood J, Wilkinson A, Vaux E. Sustainability in quality improvement: redefining value. Future Healthc J. 2018 Jun;5(2):88-93. Doi: 10.7861/futurehosp.5-2-88. PMID: 31098540; PMCID: PMC6502556.