The climate crisis is the biggest threat to public health, and we are seeing the effects of climate change now in the children we care for - for example, worsening asthma due to air pollution. The nations of the UK have committed to become carbon neutral and the NHS systems around the UK have pledged to do this too. Paediatricians have a responsibility for the health and wellbeing of children and young people and a duty to advocate for them. We need to do everything we can to address the climate emergency to help ensure a healthier future for the next generations.
RCPCH has declared a climate emergency and is committed to addressing its role in climate change with the development of the climate change working group. Many other royal colleges (eg the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of General Practitioners) have already taken steps to help their members work towards a more sustainable future.
This group aims to provide support to help members practice more sustainably, help paediatric departments become more sustainable, help members to address/acknowledge climate change when talking to patients and their families and provide trainees with the competencies and skills they need to work as paediatricians within a carbon neutral NHS.
More sustainable practice is also in line with “good practice” through reduction of the need for healthcare (prevention work, empowering children and young people and their families) and quality improvement. So, overall patient care should also improve. Sustainable healthcare needs to be ingrained in paediatric work, in QI and audits, in clinical practice, in staff habits, in training and in the advice we give to our patients.
Our aims and areas of focus
Our overall aim is to provide College members with appropriate support and resources to enable them to practice sustainable healthcare.
Our areas of focus are as follows:
- Supporting paediatricians to share resources and collaborate on sustainability and sustainable healthcare
- Helping paediatric departments become more sustainable
- Helping members to address/acknowledge climate change when talking to patients and their families
- Providing trainees with the competencies and skills they need to work as paediatricians within a carbon neutral NHS
Our actions for 2021/22
We have committed to the following activity in our first year:
- Set up a Sustainable Paediatrics Forum with Centre for Sustainable Healthcare to allow collaboration and networking
- Establish and regularly update a page on this website for sharing sustainability and sustainable healthcare resources with RCPCH members and the wider paediatric community
- Start a regular pattern of promoting the resources and support available for members through RCPCH publications such as Milestones magazine, RCPCH eBulletins, RCPCH Twitter and podcasts/videos
- Survey members thoughts on sustainable healthcare and climate change and how they would like to be supported in practicing more sustainably. This will be done through the RCPCH annual conference and through the RCPCH member survey. Feedback will help shape this group’s work and will be shared back with members
- Seek funding to recruit a clinical fellowship post to help develop a green paediatric framework and green paediatrics competition
- Survey trainees needs which will then be used to discuss the inclusion of competencies in sustainable health care and climate change to be added to the curriculum with training leads
- Work with RCPCH &Us to find out what children and young people would like from paediatricians regarding climate change, and use this to develop resources which can be used by paediatricians in consultations
- Collaborate with adult respiratory care in promoting sustainable QI inhaler use
- Develop support for members and children and young people / families regarding anxieties about climate change (eco-anxiety), in collaboration with RCPCH &Us
Looking ahead to 2023/24
We hope to go on to do the following in our second and third years:
- Consider the development of a dedicated “Sustainable healthcare” eBulletin for sharing and promoting our resources
- Consider the establishment of a green competition for paediatric departments in sustainable QI
- Work with the Research workstream to support members to carry out research in sustainability
- Develop a green paediatrics framework to encourage and support paediatric departments to become more sustainable
- Develop educational support for members on how to discuss climate change, it’s impact on health and the changes that patients and their families can make
- Re-audit members using same questions developed for the annual members survey