The Royal College of Physicians has appointed consultant nephrologist Dr Mark Harber as special adviser on healthcare sustainability and climate change.
Transplant specialist Dr Harber, who works at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, has a long-standing interest in healthcare sustainability. He has been a member of the Sustainable Kidney Care committee, served as a clinical lead for NHS London sustainability group and, more recently, as an advisor to UCL Partners Climate Collaborative.
Dr Harber advocates for reducing NHS emissions by reducing patient journeys through virtual appointments, encouraging healthcare staff to bike or walk to work, and encourages the use of ultra-low emission vehicles for general transport such as pathology specimen transportation.
Now, he will look to support RCP-wide efforts to make medicine more sustainable, serving as its spokesperson on the issue, advising on the design and delivery of its sustainability work and supporting the sustainability in healthcare and climate change advisory group.
Mark’s appointment comes after the RCP, a founding member of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, announced that healthcare sustainability and climate change would become a policy and campaigns priority for the first time following consultation with members. As part of its influencing, the RCP makes the case for ambitious government and NHS action to tackle climate change.
This includes in March this year, publishing a new report on healthcare sustainability and climate change which calls for the government to prioritise a just transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources and for the Net Zero Strategy to be strengthened.
With the health and care system in England responsible for an estimated 4-5% of the country’s carbon footprint and air pollution linked to conditions like heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, which contribute to around 36,000 deaths annually, the RCP also recommends that:
- initiatives that reduce the environmental impact of healthcare delivery must be appropriately funded, including capital investment where necessary
- the link between climate change mitigation and improved health outcomes should be recognised and leveraged in national, regional and local health inequalities work
- the NHS constitution should be updated to include the net zero targets.
Dr Mark Harber said: “It is clear there is huge potential to engage healthcare professionals across sectors to improve ways of working. Collaboration is key if we are to see achievable and impactful change in the health sector.
“I look forward to working with the medical community, both within the RCP and wider afield, as we work to bring about our vision for a more sustainable future.”
RCP’s academic vice president Professor Ramesh Arasaradnam said: “The RCP recognises that climate change is the biggest long-term threat to human health. It is vital that organisations – including those in healthcare – take preventative steps now to address this issue.
“Dr Harber’s breadth of experience will be key as we continue our ongoing work influencing medical practice and public policy for a greener, healthier and more sustainable world.”