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Green GP - Steps to cut carbon emissions

The carbon footprint of Dr Nigel Higson's practice was not excessive but reducing it further is hard.

Dr Higson: "We were doing quite well at 19,000kg of CO2 emitted a year, but the firm said this was below its expectations
Dr Higson: "We were doing quite well at 19,000kg of CO2 emitted a year, but the firm said this was below its expectations

GP published an article about my Hove practice's carbon footprint which environmental specialists Best Foot Forward (BFF) had calculated in June 2007.

We were doing quite well at 19,000kg of CO2 emitted a year, but the firm said this was slightly below its expectations for a small office-based business.

BFF made some suggestions about cutting the footprint further, but having just had a quarterly electricity bill for £1,200 I am not sure if we have had any success. But we have tried and are constantly looking at ways to do it. Simple things are sometimes the most effective: switching off consulting room workstations and printers at the end of surgery sessions does decrease electricity usage, but that is obvious. And some computers have to be left on 24 hours a day.

Less obvious and our latest intervention is to install 'occupancy detectors' in the kitchen and the patient toilet, together with a low wattage light fitting.

This simple move, cost of installation apart, will save two 70W fluorescent lights running for 12 hours a day, 260 days a year, equating to about 436kW a year.

While not massively significant, it has made us think whether fluorescent lights on standard switches are really necessary. So we are going to look into using modern LED lights and background lighting.

One area highlighted in BFF's report was the use of thousands of sheets of prescription paper.

We have experimented with electronic transfer of prescriptions (ETP) and the principle is fine. But until the software is developed further, we have turned off the option as it was adding 10 seconds to producing each and every prescription.

This resulted in nearly half an hour extra time (and frustration) each day as repeats were issued.

Innovation is all very well, but the majority of the NHS's IT advances have consultation time.

I am investigating putting in PV solar panels at the surgery after installing similar panels at home and have been quoted £26,000 to install a 4kW system which would pay for itself within 10 years. We have applied for a grant from the Low Carbon Buildings Programme (www.lowcarbonbuildings.org.uk) but don't know if we will get it. We will probably have problems with the roof structure supporting the panels so we are not sure this will go ahead.

Wind generation may be possible as we are on the south coast and our building is six storeys. However assessing wind energy potential at my home using anemometer and prediction software at www.powerpredictor.com suggested that it will take 472 years to cover the expense of a wind turbine there.

Personally I decided to downsize my car and am awaiting delivery of one of the most efficient Volvo coupes. It produces under 100g/km and its colour is green of course.

  • Dr Higson is a GP in Hove

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