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RCGP and Faculty of Public Health top climate and health scorecard

BMJ 2024; 385 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.q786 (Published 02 April 2024) Cite this as: BMJ 2024;385:q786
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. Kent

The Royal College of General Practitioners and the Faculty of Public Health have jointly topped this year’s climate and health scorecard, an initiative that aims to evaluate what UK health organisations are doing to tackle the climate and ecological emergency and encourage them to take further action.1

A total of 19 UK health organisations signed up to take part in the 2022-23 round of the scorecard, including nine medical royal colleges. This was up from the 11 that took part in the pilot scheme, the results of which were published in the Journal of Climate Change and Health in 2022.23

The initiative scores organisations in four domains: internal operations, finance, education and training, and advocacy. A range of experts contributed to the questionnaire, including leads on sustainability from royal colleges, environmental finance consultants, health educators, and Medact climate campaigners. Individual reports published for each organisation highlighted their progress and suggested their next steps. The scheme’s organisers said the results will be published biennially to monitor progress and facilitate cross organisational learning.

The results were divided into categories to draw fair comparisons between organisations of similar size and nature. The RCGP and Faculty of Public Health topped the royal colleges and faculties category, both scoring 68% overall, followed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health at 65% and the Royal College of Psychiatrists at 64%.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society came top of the second category, which covered pharmacy, psychology, and allied health professional organisations, with a score of 63%.

Eleanor Cooke, a NHS doctor who cofounded the initiative, said, “While the results show that there is still much work for health organisations to do in response to the climate and health emergency, it has been fantastic to see great progress made by organisations in this round.”

She said the Royal College of Anaesthetists had divested entirely from fossil fuels, it and the RCGP had joined the Faculty of Public Health in embedding climate and health into their curriculums, and the Association of Clinical Psychologists had changed its bank to a more environmentally and socially responsible one.

Many organisations were developing decarbonisation plans. The Royal College of Pathologists has completed its environmentally efficient building, which has rooftop solar panels, rainwater collection, and a green roof, and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has adopted meat free catering. Some organisations had taken steps to reduce the environmental impact of their conferences.

Health organisations were also increasingly calling for legislative change at local, national, and international levels. The organisers said the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health had excelled in this area, including by engaging with young people, attending a parliamentary roundtable on air quality, and speaking at COP26 on why the climate crisis was a health crisis. It had also launched a toolkit to help paediatricians advocate for action on climate change and child health inequalities.

Kevin Fenton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said it was proud to have topped this year’s scorecard. “The faculty recognises climate change as the greatest threat to health in the 21st century, and we have prioritised action on climate and sustainability across all areas of our organisation. As well as becoming net zero, we have built planetary health into our education and training programme and delivered focused advocacy on this critical agenda.”

He added, “However, there is more for us and all organisations to do to tackle the climate crisis, and we will continue to work with our members and cross sector partners to take action and speak clearly that we must go further, faster if we are to protect our planet and our health.”

Victoria Tzortziou-Brown, vice chair of the RCGP, said she was delighted that the college was ranked joint first among the participating royal colleges and said the initiative had helped the college to identify areas for further improvement. “As a college we have recognised that we are amidst a climate emergency, and responding to it is one of the RCGP’s four strategic priorities. We know we have an important role in supporting our members to deliver a critical strand of the NHS’s net zero target and addressing the wider planetary health concerns that are impacting on our patients both in the UK and globally,” she said.

Although the Royal College of Surgeons of England ranked lowest in the college and faculty category with a score of 29%, some royal colleges did not take part at all.

Andrew Stevenson and Ginny Bowbrick, co-chairs of the college’s sustainability in surgery group, said, “We strongly believe in the need for health organisations to show leadership and take steps to tackle climate change. There is plenty of work to do, and the first step on the journey to tackle climate change is for health organisations to audit and report on their progress.”

They added, “Our sustainability in surgery strategy outlines how we are embedding financial, environmental, and social sustainability with ethical purchasing into everything we do, including how we work in our new, more environmentally sustainable building.”

They also pointed to how they had worked with other colleges to develop the green theatre checklist and endorsed a new landmark green surgery report that has set the groundwork for reducing the carbon footprint of surgical care.

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