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Northumbria’s Energy & Sustainability officer Mike Blades explains how his role is helping the NHS in the fight against climate change and other environmental issues.

Wednesday, 04 November, 2020
Northumbria’s Energy & Sustainability officer Mike Blades explains how his role is helping the NHS in the fight against climate change and other environmental issues.

Being an energy & sustainability officer is a great way to help our hospitals operate more efficiently and reduce their impact on the environment.


We do this by making sure we only use as much electricity, gas and water as we need, so I get to work in new engineering technologies as well as fine tuning the existing systems.


Much of my work is deep inside hospitals in places that only estates staff normally visit, but some projects do become more visible such as installing new LED lighting systems.


Did you know that our hospitals have solar panels on the roof at both North Tyneside and Wansbeck?


In fact North Tyneside currently generates all of its own power as well as supplying electricity to the national grid . At Cramlington we even generate some electricity from waste cooking oil.


But that’s just the energy bit, what else do I do? I’m the trust lead on Sustainability so I also get to work with colleagues in those other areas that impact upon the environment such as travel,  transport and waste management where we not only have to work to quite stringent guidelines, but also work on projects such as the installation of Electric Vehicle Charging points.


Because of the nature of some of our heating systems I have to liaise with organisations such as OFGEM to ensure that we comply with the operating schemes we are in.


We measure our impact on the environment by converting as much of our working streams into carbon emissions and then we measure our progress against national targets. We have already surpassed the last 2 targets one year early. The NHS has just set a revised target to become Net Zero Health Service by 2040, which is a very challenging target to meet.


Much of our work will be formalised in a  5-year sustainability strategy document that will be considered at board level.


The main projects I am working on at the moment are a tender to replace the energy centre at North Tyneside General Hospital. This project will ensure the continuity of heat and electricity for the site for another 15 – 20 years, but  must significantly reduce our carbon emissions so it includes some novel solutions to provide that.


The other is to work with colleagues to produce our green plan which will set out the steps we must take to become a Net Zero organisation and this goes beyond the estate and looks at the impacts of a whole plethora of activities which are as diverse as the impact of medical gasses, to vehicle emissions and procurement to waste and many things between.


COVID-19 has had a massive impact on all of our lives and I now work predominantly from home but still meeting contractors on site as and when –  it improves my efficiency.


One positive impact of COVID is the reduced impact on our local environment, the restriction on movement within our buildings has meant that for a 90-day period between June and September we had 85,351 virtual meetings massively reducing the number of miles travelled.


Climate change is impacting on us now so pledge to make one small change each week.