Reducing the carbon footprint of surgical care: RCSI endorses landmark UK report

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Debbi Stanistreet headshot

Reducing the climate impact of surgical care is the goal of a new UK report that has been endorsed by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).

Reducing and reusing products used in surgery, shutdown checklists for operating rooms to save energy when they are not in use, switching to less harmful anaesthetics, and surgeons and patients working together to optimise their treatment are all highlighted by the Green Surgery Report as ways in which the carbon emissions from surgical care could be reduced. 

These recommendations will be taken forward in Ireland through a specific strategy being led by RCSI that will be introduced in early 2024.

Professor Debbi Stanistreet, Head of the Department of Public Health and Epidemiology at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, contributed to the development of the report. Welcoming its publication, Professor Stanistreet said: “This report represents a very significant body of work to which RCSI is pleased to have contributed and provides the best current available evidence to reduce carbon emissions resulting from surgical practice. 

“Here in Ireland, the Health Service Executive is committed to achieving net zero emissions by no later than 2050 and delivering healthcare which is environmentally and socially sustainable. This report provides a tool for all health service staff working in the surgical field to work towards achieving this. RCSI will promote its use across the HSE to reduce the environmental impact of surgical care and will ensure it is embedded in both undergraduate and post graduate surgical training for students and surgical trainees,” added Professor Stanistreet.

Collective responsibility

Professor Laura Viani, President of RCSI, added: “I welcome the publication of this important report. Across healthcare, we have a collective responsibility to reduce the climate impact of the care we provide. We look forward to working with colleagues and stakeholders to identify the changes we need to make across surgical services in Ireland to help reduce our carbon footprint.”

RCSI is currently ranked first in the world for its contribution to UN Sustainable Development Goal 3, Good Health and Well-being, in the Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings 2023. It is committed to integrating the UN Sustainable Development Goals into its work.

This is achieved in part by incorporating sustainability into its education programmes, ensuring its activities are environmentally responsible and by leveraging its role as leaders in health care to influence positive progress across the sector.