Northern Care Alliance aligns Green Plan with digital transformation

The Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust (NCA), which brings staff and services together from two trusts, has announced that it is to align its ‘Green Plan’ with other ‘existing priorities’, including digital transformation.

According to the NCA, which is comprised of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust (SRFT) and The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (PAT), the move is intended to help it meet its net zero carbon emissions ambitions.

The NCA, which provides care to one million people in Bury, Oldham, Rochdale and Salford, as well as offering specialist services to patients across Greater Manchester, released its new three-year Green Plan in October 2021.

Outlining its Green Plan ambitions, the NCA explained that it provides “health care for all, now and for future generations. We need to respond to the health emergency that climate change brings, in everything we do now and in the future to deliver a Net Zero NHS.”

The document also highlights points that the “climate emergency is a health emergency” and that “climate change threatens the foundations of good health, with direct and immediate consequences for our patients, the public and the NHS.”

Long-term goals of the NCA include: achieving net zero by 2040 for the emissions it can control directly (NHS Carbon Footprint), with an 80 per cent reduction by 2028-2032; net zero by 2045 for the emissions it can influence but can’t directly control (the NHS Carbon Footprint Plus), with an 80 per cent reduction by 2036-2039.

The aim is to achieve these goals through a series of measures and initiatives, including ‘developing stream specific Strategic Roadmaps for Carbon, Waste, Procurement and Biodiversity’, the details of which are laid out in the plan.

In the area of digital transformation, and its alignment with the plan, the NCA explains that there are currently different IT infrastructures in place at SFRT and PAT, with the latter’s described as being “old and complex”.

Due to investment from NHS England, there is now work underway to improve this area, with much having already taken place. This includes, as per the plan: network connectivity and data storage to improve access to systems across the different sites; support for old systems to improve system reliability and performance, and protect from cyber-attacks; IMT Service Desk improvements to help with capacity and capability to deal with staff access, general requests, and incidents; replacement of old devices which were slowing down system performance and productivity.

Other digital initiatives of note are Salford’s partnership with the digital provider DrDoctor, and the company’s solutions for “booking, messaging, video consultations, digital letters, scheduling, patient-led booking, and assessments”, which the NCA says, “lead to efficiency savings, and carbon savings for both patients and the trust.”

It adds that, “virtual consultations have increased dramatically over the last year, and we are working with teams across the NCA looking at ways in which we can deliver care differently, closer to home, using concepts of remote monitoring, and virtual wards.”

During the pandemic, the organisation also shifted to “home first working” and “providing services digitally where possible”, which has ultimately led to a “seed change” and a “rethinking” of how the “post pandemic workforce operates”.

A new data centre is also being built at Royal Oldham, which will allow the NCA to “consolidate and rationalise” the number of computer rooms and, over the long-term, make a “controlled and considered move to cloud provision which will ultimately deliver energy efficiencies.”

It’s noted that, while the NCA acknowledges the carbon impact of data centres, “we need to invest in the digital infrastructure of our organisation to realise larger scale, longer term positive carbon impacts in the care pathways we deliver.”

Within the newly published plan, the NCA also states, “as a proud part of the NHS bodies that make up the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, we have jointly declared a Climate Emergency in August 2019, and signed off our SDMP (Sustainable Development plan) in Jan 2020,” before going on to detail its three-phase approach beyond the next three years.

Initially, from 2020 to 2025, the body will “build the foundations of the strategy”, which includes developing the “team, committee structures, skills base, and engagement programmes,” as well as understanding the NCA’s performance and data to help with the creation of specific targets.

Phase two, which will follow on and run from 2025 to 2035, will “begin to look to the proactive measures” that can be taken to work towards national and regional targets, and there will also be a focus on “expanding the scope of the strategies” to encompass more indirect impacts.

For the final phases, from 2035 onwards, sustainability will be “embedded with the trust’s core strategy” with the board expected to be “fluent” in the approach, and in understanding the status of the carbon emissions and the NCA’s “overall sustainable impact”.

The publication then provides a table to illustrate the objectives and next steps around tackling each theme. Overall, there are five themes highlighted – emissions, energy, waste, water management, biodiversity. Within these, the NCA has focused on 11 individual areas it can work on, including carbon, air, energy consumption, energy sources, energy security, eliminating waste, reducing waste, recycling, water management consumption, emergency planning, and developing sites to reduce the impact on biodiversity.

To read the Green Plan in full, please click here.