Designing better mental healthcare facilities

Environmental strategy launched at low-carbon Orkney hospital

A new national strategy aimed at making the country’s NHS environmentally sustainable has been launched at Scotland’s first low-carbon new-build hospital by Scottish Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf.

Designed by Keppie Design and delivered by Robertson Construction in Spring 2019, the £65 Balfour Hospital, in Kirkwall, Orkney (pictured), is fully electric, with air-to-water heat pumps generating all hot water and heating, and solar panels helping to reduce reliance on the grid.

The NHS Scotland Climate Emergency and Sustainability Strategy targets ‘five crucial areas’ for achieving Net Zero:

  • Buildings – ensuring that buildings are well insulated, efficient, and use renewable heating systems.
  • Travel – low emission electric vehicles, and making it easier for staff, patients, and visitors, to travel to NHS sites by public transport or bicycle.
  • Goods and services – cutting emissions in the supply chain, and reducing the goods and materials used, and use of single-use instruments.
  • Care – reducing  emissions from medicines such as metered dose inhalers or anaesthetic gases.
  • Communities – supporting communities to adapt to climate change, and encouraging them to make use of the green space in hospital grounds

From next year reports will be published annually setting out the progress made in implementing the strategy.

Visiting the Balfour Hospital, Humza Yousaf said: “As we continue our efforts to push ahead with the recovery of health and social care after the challenges of the last two years, we need to think long-term about how to make services more sustainable. With such a large estate, environmental sustainability is a key part of this for the NHS, so I’m pleased to be able to launch this strategy today. Our approach will help  build on the great work already been done to accelerate our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and become environmentally sustainable. As well as the environmental impacts, I am also very mindful of the recent increase in energy prices, and there is a clear benefit in reducing energy use and increasing efficiency in everything we do. 

“To achieve the transformational change that is necessary we need to establish a culture where resources are safeguarded and used responsibly. With that in mind I have been really impressed with what I have seen in Orkney. The team here are driving forward innovative ways to ensure they have low carbon emissions.”

Michael Dickson, Chief Executive of NHS Orkney, added: “We have been delighted to show Mr Yousaf around the fantastic facilities we have here in Orkney. It is testament to the whole community how committed we are to building a sustainable future.

NHS Orkney is further cutting emissions through its  trial of an onsite treatment facility to handle low risk clinical waste, which was previously sent to the mainland for treatment.

The Balfour’s grounds are also being used for the community’s benefit – giving a space for staff, patients, and the wider community to rest, relax, recover, and carry out recreational gardening activities.

NHS Scotland’s local Health Boards’ building emissions decreased by 64% between 1989/90 and 2020/21.




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