When Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) decided to configure an environmental management system (EMS), it called on the services of NQA and the result was certification to ISO 14001. Rob Shepherd finds out the benefits it has brought HEFT and how it has set a standard for others in the NHS to follow.
Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) was formed in 2005 and with over 11,000 employees it provides general and specialist hospital and community care for the people of Birmingham, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth and parts of south Staffordshire. The hospitals that comprise HEFT include Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Solihull Hospital and Good Hope Hospital, while community health services and smaller satellite units allow people to be treated as close to home as possible.
As one of the nation's largest bodies of its kind HEFT has long been aware that its activities can have consequences for the environment. Therefore, as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) based objectives it does all it can do reduce its impact on the planet.
Andy Cooke HEFT's facilities manager and environmental representative, explains:
"We endeavour to contain the environmental impact of our activities, so far as is practicable and consistent with maintaining high quality patient care. Having recognised the need to put an environmental management system (EMS) in place, and in order to demonstrate our commitment to continual improvement in this area, we decided to work towards ISO 14001 certification."
ISO 14001 is the international standard for EMS and Martin Hockaday, NQA's energy and environment sector manager, states:
"Becoming certified to this highly respected standard helps an organisation identify and systematically reduce any harmful effects it may have on the environment by developing processes to lower energy and raw materials used, reduce waste and pollution, and mitigate the risk of emergency situations. It not only ensures that a company is environmentally friendly, it also makes it more efficient."
HEFT has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with NQA and has been ISO 9001 certified for many years. It wanted to ensure that it could integrate ISO 14001 into its existing operating system as seamlessly as possible to provide a common framework. It was decided that the certification process would initially focus on Solihull Hospital and work began in January 2011.
Describing the process, Andy Cooke says:
"NQA outlined our initial requirements, however, as the process had the potential to become complex in terms of our ability to understand and apply applicable environmental law, we chose to use an outside consultancy. This decision was largely driven by the need to ensure that future audits by NQA would be seen as transparent and impartial.' Before work started a gap analysis was undertaken to help identify, plan and prepare what Solihull Hospital wanted to achieve and the best way to go about it."
"NQA auditors are always realistic in terms of the application of the standard and the gap analysis was incredibly helpful in providing us with an indication about where we were in our journey towards compliance. I would highly recommend that any organisation goes through this process, as it might well indicate that current environmental practices are not as robust as they ought to be."
The project lasted for 18 months before certification was successfully awarded. Stakeholder engagement played a vital role and during that time more than 250 employees at Solihull Hospital – from front line staff to senior management – were trained in waste and environmental issues, and an online legal register was introduced to keep up-to-date with the latest statutory requirements.
"Setting objectives required by ISO 14001 has resulted in a one per cent reduction in gas usage, which equates to a saving of £9,950 per annum."
When asked what quantifiable utility cost savings have been made since having a certified system in place, Andy Cooke replies:
"from April 2012 to date Solihull Hospital has recycled over 1,773,000kg of dry mix waste, and we have even generated an income of £913 by selling this waste as a raw material!
Also waste recovered by recycling has saved the Trust £24,150 in the same period. ISO 4001 has also been a great tool for documenting success achieved through a sustainability programme. The Trust can now clearly evidence its work, such as using Solar PV, Smart Metering and insulation of pipework resulting in an annual saving £125,000 in energy costs.
ISO 14001 also drives us to set realistic objectives, such as better utilization of waste hot water resulting from cooling plant. Using this hot water to actually heat other parts of the hospital will equate to a saving in heating bills of £14,420 within a 12 month period. Another objective has resulted in a one per cent reduction in gas usage, which equates to a saving of £9,950 per annum."
..local residents, all have an interest in how tax payers' money is used and greater efficiency in these areas, driven by ISO 14001, means more financial recourses can be directed towards medical care."
The impact is also much wider than HEFT itself. Patients, GPs and clinics who use HEFT's services, as well as local residents, all have an interest in how tax payers' money is used and greater efficiency in these areas, driven by ISO 14001, means more financial recourses can be directed towards medical care.
HEFT is delighted with the success of the ISO 14001 project at Solihull Hospital, with Andy Cooke and his team now planning to expand it to Birmingham Heartlands Hospital and Good Hope Hospital. Cooke firmly believes that similar organisations have much to gain from following this example. He comments:
"The NHS is a very large and unique organisation, and any ways to improve energy management must be championed. The waste it produces is unique in its diversity, having numerous domestic and clinical streams. Poor management of waste will damage a trust's reputation and would be very costly if laws were to be broken."
However, he believes that ISO 14001 is an excellent way to address these issues and concludes:
"It is a structured and robust mechanism for ensuring effective compliance in these areas as well as legal compliance and continued improvement in its environmental activities. I certainly sleep better knowing we have ISO 14001 certified processes and procedures and an up-to-date legal register in place."