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NHS England net zero lead highlights process based approach to decarbonisation

Net zero icon in palm of hand
Image source: Sukkasemsakorn

NHS England’s lead official for its net zero programme has said it is open to engage with public sector organisations on its processes for choosing appropriate digital tools.

Ben Tongue was speaking at UKAuthority’s Powering Digital Public Services conference, at which he outlined the digital elements of efforts to take the NHS towards net zero carbon emissions.

He said that digital is seen as an enabler for decarbonisation, notably through developments including the expansion of telehealth, the development of ‘smart’ hospitals, using the technology in asset management and circular hardware procurement – which is focused on reducing the creation of waste and negative environmental impacts.

NHS England has developed an approach involving five main processes – developing the business case and benefits, digital service design, procurement and climate change risk management, and data collection – along with the relevant obligations and tooling.

The latter includes a net carbon calculator for digital tooling, a sustainable digital service design specification, guidance on compliance with the Cabinet Office public procurement policy notes and prototypes for climate change risk assessments of digital health services.

Tongue said his team is currently running a baseline exercise for data collection, taking into account factors such as digital maturity assessments, procurement data and cyber security.

Invitation to talk

“It’s a process based approach, and this is a collaborative exercise in which I would invite people from the public sector to have a chat about what they are doing, or potentially using some of the stuff we are doing,” he said. “We’ve taken these processes that map into obligations that apply to us and created the tooling.”

He also outlined some design choices for reducing carbon emissions, including: ensuring that any hosting service selected in low carbon and architected for sustainability; the decommissioning of old infrastructure to remove technical debt; ensuring end user devices run on low energy and are re-used; and looking at whether interoperability helps the same hardware achieve more outcomes.

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