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Practices awarded for taking action to help the planet

Richard sat at his desk

Primary care staff are introducing greener ways of working throughout their Swansea Bay practices.

GP practices, pharmacies, opticians and dental practices have been striving to become more environmentally friendly by making changes to the way they work.

Public Health Wales nationally launched the Greener Primary Care Wales Framework and Award Scheme to encourage primary care staff to introduce greener ways of working to their practices.

It is the first of its kind in Wales and is made up of a suite of both clinical and non-clinical ‘green’ actions, with accompanying information and resources to help with implementation.

Richard sat at his desk

Pictured: Dr Richard Thomas at Kingsway Surgery.

Practices can choose which actions to complete, with one point achieved for each they manage to do.

As the number of actions completed increases, so does the level of award achieved – ranging from bronze to silver and then gold.

So far, 15 practices across Swansea Bay have signed up to the framework with a number of them having already achieved silver and bronze awards.

Oliver Newman, Greener Primary Care Champion and Assistant Divisional Manager for Pharmacy and Medicines Management said: “The award scheme gives all primary care contractors a choice of actions.

“A number of them apply to all contractors, however there is a flexibility for contractors to choose actions that are specific to their line of work.

“Many of the actions are likely to already be standard practice, such as switching off all equipment at the end of the day or using energy efficient lighting.

“A specific action could be switching to more carbon friendly inhalers in pharmacies for instance.

“There are 50 actions in total, with eight needed to be completed to achieve a bronze award.”

So far, The Dental Lounge Glynneath and Talbot Road Dental Practice, both in Neath Port Talbot, have received bronze awards for their efforts.

Gower Opticians has received silver awards for the steps it has taken, and Kingsway Surgery, in Swansea, has achieved a gold award.

Dr Richard Thomas, a GP at Kingsway Surgery, said: “As a surgery we have introduced things such as using more sustainable paper, so our hand towels are brown paper and aren’t bleached.

“It has a lower environmental impact as the paper isn’t dyed. We also use the same for the paper coverings on our examination couches.

“Throughout the surgery we have also looked at our PPE use, we make sure we don’t use gloves unnecessarily, and we hardly use any at all now.

Richard holding an inhaler

“In our kitchen we have bags for recycling paper, cardboard, glass, cans and plastics, rather than just a black bag, and we also buy Fairtrade tea and coffee.

“Our nurses are involved in inhaler switches, where we are trying to move towards using dry powder inhalers which have a much lower carbon footprint compared to others.

“We also have a prescribing technician who carries out medication reviews, including how many inhalers they have which they may not need. If patients are on a large number of prescriptions, they will identify that and see if changes need to be made.”

Dr Thomas has held meetings with practice staff to raise awareness of becoming more environmentally friendly and has had wider meetings with colleagues in the City Health Local Cluster Collaborative (LCC).

The remaining GP practices within the LCC have also been encouraged to sign up to the framework.

He added: “I think it is important as healthcare professionals to act on this framework and we should recognise that as well as having benefits to the environment, it has health benefits for people.

“There are a lot of things you can do that reduce your carbon footprint which are good for you as well as being good for the planet.

“Some of our practice staff cycle to work for instance, which improves cardiovascular fitness.

“We have a win-win situation if we can act differently as it has health benefits, as well as reducing our carbon footprint.”

Pictured: Dr Thomas said the practice is trying to move towards using dry powder inhalers and brown paper on examination couches.

It is hoped the scheme will continue to build on the health board’s commitment to becoming as sustainable as possible throughout its services and sites.

“We want to encourage practices to sign up as the choice and flexibility of actions within the framework make this easily attainable,” Oliver added.

“The framework also aligns to Swansea Bay’s Decarbonisation Action Plan, supporting the health board’s aim of becoming as sustainable as possible.”

Follow this link to the Primary Care One website where you can find more information about the Greener Primary Care framework.

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