Publish date: 21 December 2021

Multimillion-pound project to slash carbon emissions at North East hospital

A photograph of the main entrance to a hospital.

A major project to decarbonise North Tyneside General Hospital is getting underway, with the aim of reducing its emissions by a massive 80% in the years to come.

The up-to-£22million scheme, which will result in a replacement of the steam system which provides the heating for the hospital, alongside other energy-saving improvements, is part of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s commitment to taking concrete, meaningful action to reduce its environmental impact.

It is hoped the successful implementation of this programme at North Tyneside will act as an example of how a working hospital can become much more environmentally-friendly, not just for the rest of the Trust’s sites across Northumberland, but also for the NHS nationally.

Sir James Mackey, Northumbria Healthcare’s chief executive, said: “This is an extremely important project for us and will act as a real showcase to what we are doing as part of our Sustainable Northumbria commitments.

“We are investing heavily in our estates and facilities over the coming years, and ensuring new developments and refurbishing existing buildings to make them as sustainable as possible is a key part of that agenda.

“Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because we know that environmental factors play a role in people’s longer-term health and wellbeing, which is why the environment is one of the six key pillars of Our Community Promise, which is our pledge to do more to tackle the wider determinants of health.”

The main element of the work at North Tyneside is to ‘de-steam’ the site; the 40-year-old old boiler and steam distributions systems will be coming out and the entire hospital will be run on low-temperature hot water – provided by air-source and water-source heat pumps.

There will be a back-up system as a contingency, as hospitals clearly need to have guaranteed power and heating, but this will be a low-temperature hot water boiler.

In addition, solar panels (1 MW of photovoltaics) will be installed on the roof, all of the windows are being switched from single-glazing to double-glazing in a phased approach, and cavity wall insulation is being installed across the site.

Mike Blades, the Trust’s energy and sustainability officer, said: “This is a much-needed project that will have a significant impact in terms of reducing our carbon emissions, which should drop by 80% over a 15-year period, with the largest drop in the first two years.

“We have already spent around £3 million making changes that you could describe as ‘easy wins’, for example, upgrading all of the lighting, but to make further inroads, we have to make significant investments, such as the one here at North Tyneside.”

This project is being funded by a £22million grant from phase one of the Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, announced in October last year.

It will involve more than 60 ventilation units and thousands of metres of hot water piping having to be replaced, the high-voltage substation being removed and upgrades to the power system through a large number of replacement switchboards and cables to improve resilience. The chimney that can be seen above the hospital will come down, to be replaced by a new, much smaller one.

Owen Cusack, projects director for Northumbria Healthcare, said: “This upgrade is much needed as the current system is past its design life, starting to cost significant amounts in maintenance and, of course, the new setup will be vastly more efficient.

“This really is a major project and a significant amount of work will be taking place, although much of it will be behind the scenes and not obvious to staff, patients and visitors. However, as with any large-scale works, there will be some disruption, so we apologise for any inconvenience.”

The recently-opened Northumbria Sterile Processing Centre, for cleaning and sterilising medical equipment, at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital site in Cramlington, was a net-zero development, but it has also helped support this decarbonisation of North Tyneside General Hospital, as the sterilisation department previously located there was a major user of steam provided by the current heating system.

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