All hospitals administer anaesthetic gases during surgery and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, as Scotland’s largest Board uses more anaesthetic gases than most.
Which is why their switch from using Desflurane to Sevoflurane, its much lower carbon alternative, is great news for the environment while still doing the same job for patients.
Desflurane, releases 60 times more CO2 than Sevofurane, an alternative anaesthetic gas. In global warming terms too, Desflurane has a global warming potential (GWP) which is around 20 times higher than sevoflurane, and it also stays in the atmosphere for much longer - almost 13 more years.
NHSGGC anaesthetists, concerned about the environmental impact of Desflurane, decided to do something about this and launched a Quality Improvement Project to promote the Sevoflurane as a safe alternative for most patients. Already the Board’s North Sector has seen a 75% reduction in Desflurane use a result and this change is now being replicated in the other sectors.
Dr Steven Young, Consultant Anaesthetist said ““This is a really significant environmental change, with a carbon dioxide equivalent reduction of 350 less cars commuting to the hospital every day. We have done this whilst maintaining high standards of anaesthetic care to our patients.”
A recent study, published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal, highlights the potential for reducing emissions in health care settings and, at the same time, potentially reducing costs. Emissions due to anaesthetic gases accounted for approximately 2,000 tonnes of CO2e at two North American sites – ten-fold higher than the anaesthetic gas emissions from the UK hospital. The authors say this is largely the result of a higher usage of desflurane in the two North American hospitals.
Dr Young added: “It has been estimated that five per cent of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions from acute hospitals are due to the use of inhalational agents. This is equivalent to around half the CO2 used to heat all hospital buildings and water.
“This is just one of the areas in which NHSGGC is driving forward a focus on sustainability and making a difference to its carbon footprint.”
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