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Reducing the impact of NHS purchasing on the environment

Monday 13 December 2010

Second sustainability report published:

  • NHS Supply Chain reduces its carbon emissions by 12%
  • Working with trusts to reduce their own impact on environment
  • First in the world to trial 18 tonne hybrid vehicle

NHS trusts should employ more sustainable practices across their supply chains, advises NHS Supply Chain as it publishes its second sustainability report today.

NHS Supply Chain is the largest supplier of healthcare products, food and diagnostic equipment to hospitals in England and is operated by DHL.

Over the past two years it has employed sustainable practices across its business, including: procurement, transport and waste management.

Some of the milestones in its latest report include:

  • reducing warehouse and transport carbon emissions by 12 per cent;
  • helping NHS trusts reduce their carbon emissions through delivery consolidation;
  • introducing the first Fair Trade cotton polo shirts into the NHS; and
  • ensuring that there are over 100 food products available that carry a recognised fairly traded logo.

Nick Gerrard, NHS Supply Chain’s chief executive officer says, “We have worked closely with customers and key stakeholders to help us develop practices that are at the forefront of the healthcare sector. We endeavour to provide quality products at best value prices that also take into account social, ethical and environmental impacts.”

Procurement makes up approximately 60 per cent of all NHS carbon emissions according to the Department of Health’s “Saving Carbon, Improving Health report”. NHS Supply Chain has made concerted efforts to bring this figure down through its comprehensive sustainability programme.

“Healthcare providers are starting to take account of the environmental impact they have, but many are only touching the tip of the iceberg of how they can achieve this,” says Nick.

“We can not only help NHS trusts reduce their carbon footprint through our consolidated deliveries and environmentally friendly fleet; but we can also provide a helping hand when it comes to ensuring goods are procured ethically or sourced locally to reduce food miles.”

NHS Supply Chain’s new vehicles are fitted with the latest air-deflector technology on the cab and roof to help reduce wind resistance and increase fuel efficiency. All vehicles have technically advanced engines meaning that the amount of carbon and other greenhouse gases are reduced, as well as the amount of air pollution from diesel particulates and harmful nitrogen oxides.

In addition, NHS Supply Chain is currently trialling an 18 tonne parallel hybrid vehicle from Volvo, and DHL is the first company in the world to do so. Nick explains, “We estimate that it should produce fuel and CO2 savings of up to 15 per cent.”

The vehicle has a battery and electric motor used to propel the vehicle at low speeds and low torque, after which a conventional diesel engine cuts in and drives the vehicle as if it were a normal rigid truck. The vehicle does not need to be connected to the mains at any point as it recharges it battery through regenerative braking, where each revolution of the wheels during coasting or breaking turns the vehicles motor and stores the electricity produced in the on board batteries for later use.

A recent carbon reduction project with hospitals across the Bristol and Bath area saw NHS Supply Chain save around 10,400 vehicle miles over the course of a year - an overall saving of five tonnes in carbon emissions per year.¹

“NHS trusts should also take into account the ethical procurement of products as well. It is something of upmost importance for us,” concludes Nick.

“We have a code of conduct which sets out ethical conditions that suppliers must adhere to; we employ a progressive procurement model for food which is underpinned by the Ethical Trade Initiative’s (ETI) base code²; and we recently introduced the first Fair Trade cotton polo shirt uniform into the NHS.”

NHS Supply Chain’s sustainability report highlights the organisation’s achievements and sets out its future targets.

Over the past year it has reduced its carbon emissions by 12 per cent and recycled 70 per cent of all waste. This year it aims to reduce emissions by a further 2.5 per cent and continue to implement sustainable practices across its procurement processes.


Media enquiries:
Andrew Brentnall
01773 724196 or 07766513181
Jayesha Mistry
0773 8071826

Notes to editors
A copy of NHS Supply Chain’s second annual sustainability report can be downloaded here,
² NHS Supply Chain’s supplier code of practice is an integral part of all food tenders and the ETi
base code of conduct is used within all food tenders.

About NHS Supply Chain
NHS Supply Chain is a government contract operated by DHL since 2006. It supports the National Health Service (NHS) and other healthcare organisations in England and Wales by providing end to end supply chain solutions.

The organisation was formed from the NHS Logistics Authority and parts of the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (NHS PASA). It is operated on behalf of the NHS Business Services Authority and aims to provide over £1 billion of savings to the NHS by 2016.

The NHS Supply Chain contract manages the sourcing, delivery and supply of healthcare products and food for over 1,000 NHS trusts and healthcare organisations. It provides a single point of access to over 620,000 products ranging from bandages to sutures, from gloves to implants, and even diagnostic equipment such as MRI scanners.

Its management of the procurement process negates an NHS organisation’s need to tender through the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). Costs can also be reduced through its one-route solution that consolidates all products onto one invoice and delivery – this saves up to £1 per product in back office administration costs and removes up to 40 deliveries going into a trust compared with ordering goods separately.

To ensure that its products are fit for today’s healthcare market, NHS Supply Chain works with suppliers of all sizes to ensure its range embraces high quality and innovative products; and engages with clinicians, the Department of Health and academic institutions to make sure that it is aware of the current requirements and latest developments in clinical practice.

NHS Supply Chain’s product areas include:

  • theatres
  • dental
  • audiology
  • catering, including food
  • infection control
  • orthopedics
  • rehabilitation
  • capital equipment, including finance and maintenance

Based in Alfreton, Derbyshire, UK, the business employs around 2,400 staff in eight locations.

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