Nurses urged to walk or get buses as part of NHS net zero plan
NHS will encourage nurses to walk, use public transport or electric vehicles to hit net zero targets, but unions stress need to consider cost and staff safety
Nurses will be encouraged to take public transport to work or drive electric cars under plans to halve emissions from NHS staff travel over the next ten years.
Nurses will be encouraged to use more sustainable forms of transport
NHS England's Net Zero Travel and Transport Strategy sets ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions from travel and transport over the next decade as part of efforts to achieve a net zero NHS by 2045.
While increased use of digital communication such as telephone appointments will reduce the need to travel and be one of the main ways to reduce emissions, the plan also sets out ways to cut emissions from staff travel to and from work and visits to patients.
This could include encouraging nurses and others to buy travel passes or lease new electric bikes and cars directly out of their wages to make these options more affordable.
Unison assistant national officer Beauty Dhlamini welcomed efforts to reduce emissions, but warned the current cost of electric cars ‘puts them well beyond the reach of most NHS workers’.
Public transport not always adequate or suitable for night shifts, say unions
Meanwhile, local strategies will also emphasise the health benefits of walking to work as a way of boosting staff physical and mental well-being at the same time as being a greener way to travel.
However, public transport or walking to work may not be a viable option for nurses and others who work unsocial hours. Meanwhile, safe access to parking and public transport continue to be a problem for many, say unions.
Ms Dhlamini said: ‘Public transport is often non-existent outside major cities, and even then doesn’t accommodate shift patterns. Travelling early in the morning or late at night on buses and trains can take much longer and leave people feeling unsafe. Public transport can be expensive too.
‘Where health workers do need to drive for their jobs, trusts must do more to provide emission-friendly fleets and encourage staff to walk more. But this can only go so far. Shift work in rural areas will always require some employees to use their car.’
‘Employers must ensure electric vehicles are affordable for nurses’
A spokesperson for the Queen’s Nursing Institute said: ‘For community nurses visiting patients at home, there are challenges to using public transport or walking to see patients – for example the weight of equipment and supplies that are needed.
‘Electric vehicles will soon be the norm, but employers must ensure these are affordable for nurses, whatever purchase or funding system is used. Community nurses often report that they are subsidising the cost of travelling to see their patients by private car… this must not happen as part of the fair transition to carbon neutrality.’
RCN stresses need for employers to prioritise safety and affordability
It urged organisations to review green travel policies and take steps including ensuring free parking – with priority for shift workers – and exploring sustainable travel options such as ‘park and ride’ schemes, shuttle buses and investing in more pool cars.
The new NHS strategy acknowledges that some travel options will not be appropriate for all staff.
‘It is important that NHS organisations account for the specific needs associated with workforce shift patterns and working hours within their locality,’ says the document.
‘Furthermore, much of the care the NHS delivers needs to be done in person, and some travel options may not be suitable for certain groups, people or localities.’
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