Scotland’s NHS has become the first national health service in the United Kingdom to stop using an anaesthetic which has a high global warming potential.
Desflurane, used as an anaesthetic during surgery, has a global warming potential 2,500 times greater than carbon dioxide.
Removing it from use in hospital theatres across NHS Scotland saves emissions equivalent to powering 1,700 homes every year.
The work was led by clinicians who have moved away from using desflurane to clinically appropriate and safe alternatives that have less impact on the environment.
Withdrawing desflurane is the first action of the National Green Theatres Programme which is due to be formally launched in Spring 2023. Part of the NHS Scotland Climate Emergency and Sustainability strategy and hosted by NHS Golden Jubilee, the programme will identify areas where operating theatres can become more environmentally friendly.
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Humza Yousaf said:
“I am immensely proud that we have become the first nation in the UK to stop using environmentally harmful anaesthetics in our NHS.
“Programmes like this are key to our transition to become a net-zero health service, whilst ensuring patient safety remains at the heart of every clinical decision.”
Kenneth Barker, Clinical Lead for the National Green Theatres Programme, said:
“Theatres are high carbon and energy intensive areas that produce high volumes of waste, so reducing the environmental impact of theatres will make a positive difference toward achieving Scotland’s net zero targets.
“NHS Scotland has assigned an ambitious target to be net-zero for anaesthetic gases by 2027, and removal of Desflurane is just the first step towards this.
“We are delighted to work with clinical teams across Scotland and specialists in National Procurement to make this happen before the green theatres programme fully gets under way.
“Our patients always comes first but it’s great that we are now making clinically safe patient care decisions with sustainability in mind.”
NHS Scotland climate emergency and sustainability strategy: 2022-2026 – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)