Toby Hillman on carbon efficient healthcare

Toby HillmanI was going to start this blog telling you how junior doctors are the lifeblood of the NHS. Then I thought about how few of us there are compared with the rest of the NHS, and how much real power we wield in the workplace. In fact, we help to keep things ticking over, and, help to reach positive outcomes for our patients, but are often members of a much larger team. So, I had to re-think. If we are not the life-blood of the NHS at the moment, at the very least, we are going to be the future of the NHS.

We are in training for a short period of our professional careers, and then we move into positions of greater responsibility, and influence within our chosen specialty or field.  As such, we are the leaders of the future. The future department leads, principle partners, clinical directors, medical directors, PEC chairs, chief executives, chief medical officers and possibly even future health ministers will come from within our ranks. This is a huge responsibility. We need to look to the future, and start taking steps now to ensure that this future is bright for our patients, and our service.

I truly believe that to be effective physicians, surgeons, general practitioners and junior doctors need to learn, not just about delivering individual care to the patient in front of them, but to learn, and understand how we as a profession and an NHS deliver healthcare to the population.  It requires more than the knowledge of what drug to prescribe, or what operation to plan. It requires a vision which encompasses the determinants of health, and the restraints on our activities, through economic pressures, and other, possibly more significant influences.

Climate change, economics, and health are inextricably linked.  As such, I believe that this is one of the areas junior doctors need to learn about, and understand, so that they can be the effective leaders of the NHS in a few years time.

On Wednesday night, I helped to organise a meeting of junior doctors which looked at the problem of carbon efficient healthcare, and how we might learn some lessons from businesses that are years ahead of the NHS in their thinking and action about carbon efficiency and sustainability. The main lessons I learned were that if we are to continue to deliver high quality healthcare to patients in the UK, the face of medicine is going to change.  There were no easy answers given to the uphill struggle facing the NHS, but there were challenges issued to everyone who attended, and there is one which I hope you might turn your mind to for a few minutes:

How can doctors add value to their day job?  Doctors are good at doctoring – how can we improve the standard of care we give our patients, and achieve a more sustainable health service at the same time?  Should we consider a whole new way of running clinics? Should we think about new ways of operating? Or simply treating patients in a standardised way to reduce inefficient use of limited NHS resources, and streamline our supply chains?

Over the coming months, BAMMbino will be searching for some answers, and hope that you will join us in looking for parts of the solution to “the greatest threat to health in the world today”  Answers on a postcard please…

Toby Hillman is Chair of BAMMbino, the Junior Doctors arm of the British Association of Medical Managers.