Intended for healthcare professionals


The BMJ Awards 2020: Outstanding contribution to health

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 23 July 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m1613
  1. Jacqui Wise, freelance journalist
  1. London, UK

This award goes to David Pencheon, who has inspired and encouraged a generation of doctors working on sustainability, Jacqui Wise reports

David Pencheon, founding director of the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) for NHS England and Public Health England, is the worthy winner of this year’s BMJ outstanding contribution to health award. He helped set up the SDU in 2007, at a time when few others had the foresight to make sustainability and climate their top priority. Securing the funds to do this from a perennially cash strapped NHS was a remarkable achievement in itself—especially when so few people shared those concerns.

Starting the conversation

The SDU devised a way of measuring the carbon footprint of every aspect of healthcare in England and helped organisations redesign how care is delivered to reduce emissions. He says his greatest achievement during the decade he headed the unit was simply starting the conversation. “Because there was an NHS body dealing with sustainable development, it legitimised it as a mainstream issue.” He is also proud of engaging people in the issue in a friendly and productive way. “We were not jabbing fingers at people,” he says.

Pencheon has been interested in the health of the planet …

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