December 2022 marked the opening of Devizes Health Centre in Wiltshire to patients. But what makes this site so special? And how is it helping to tackle climate change? James Wakeham, principal construction manager at NHS Property Services (NHSPS), explains
Climate change affects not only the environment, but also our health. It can exacerbate conditions like cardiovascular disease, asthma, and cancer, which contribute to further issues such as health inequalities. By tackling climate change, we can concurrently reduce the burden of disease from factors like air pollution.
Role of the NHS
The health service has a particularly large role to play in tackling this. The NHS is responsible for 5 per cent of the UK’s total carbon emissions across all its activities. The NHS estate and its supporting facilities services comprise 15 per cent of the Health Services’ total carbon emissions profile. Decarbonising the estate is a main target for the NHS to achieve net zero carbon status by 2040 through the COP26 Health Programme, aligning with the Government’s ambition set out in its Build Back Greener strategy.
As part of this, the NHS has opened a new, sustainable, integrated health centre to patients in Wiltshire. The site has an EPC rating of A+, utilising the latest green technology, including heat pumps and solar panels that generate heat and electricity, to enable self-sufficiency. This is a significant marker that demonstrates the site’s potential to run as a net zero health centre. In addition to this, Devizes has achieved a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating of excellence, showing the high green building credentials that set a standard for future projects. In comparison, most properties in England and Wales have an average EPC rating of D. As buildings are responsible for nearly a fifth of UK emissions, this positive rating of the health centre is a significant achievement.
At NHSPS we look after around 10 per cent of the NHS estate, managing over 3,000 NHS properties across England, from GP practices to hospitals, which see close to six million patients daily. We strive to be at the forefront of sustainable real estate, creating an NHS that is fit for the future and one that supports greener and healthier communities. The building of the new integrated care centre in Devizes, which meets the needs of the local community, had been a topic of conversation among the local community for some time. After many years of deliberation, plans for the new build were approved during the first half of 2021, with construction work beginning in May 2021 for the £10.9 million centre.
The Devizes Health Centre provides many benefits to the NHS because of the way the building functions. For example, the building’s reliance on renewable energy sources provides a certainty of energy supply that can withstand market and supply changes. The provision of renewables ensures not only ensures a constant supply, but it also enables us to better manage budgets, which is especially important during periods of economic uncertainty when energy prices are rising at a dangerous rate.
The centre has given much-needed additional space for health services in the area, making it easier for patients to access the care they need locally and all under one roof. A number of local health and care providers share the building and provide a range of services that you would find at a GP practice, as well as hospital outpatients and mental health services, creating a hub where patients can get urgent primary care. This means a quicker and more efficient service for patients, which all supports in tackling the NHS’ backlog of care.
Patients of four local GP surgeries are now able to access same-day or next-day medical care and will be directed to the centre for routine blood tests and medical reviews for conditions like asthma and diabetes, as well as some specialist clinics. The services currently provided by Wiltshire Health and Care at the Devizes Community Hospital are moving to the new health centre. Royal United Hospitals Bath will be providing outpatient services including audiology, care of the elderly, paediatrics, rheumatology and urology services. The Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership will be providing some of their community services from the new health centre. Supported by the Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Integrated Care Board, a wide range of organisations can now work together in a more joined-up and collaborative way in one of most state-of-the-art healthcare environments in the country.
Devizes is just one of the many different projects that NHSPS is working on to improve patient care whilst delivering a greener NHS. Last year, we published our new Green Plan, part of our wider ‘Delivering a Greener NHS’ programme, which supports NHS England’s Greener NHS campaign.
My hope is that in the future, sustainable healthcare sites like this become the norm. Climate change has been widely recognised as one of the greatest threats to public health globally and nationally, and we at NHSPS are committed to reducing our environmental impact and promoting sustainable healthcare, enabling the NHS to deliver excellent patient care now and in the future. It has also been fantastic to work with the people of Devizes and our local NHS partners on this centre, to ensure the new site is fit-for-purpose and works best for them.
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