Interview Series: Justin Griffiths and Tina Davies at The Walton Centre on digital sustainability

In the latest interview for our series focusing on how technology can help hospitals go greener, we spoke to Justin Griffiths, Head of IT, and Tina Davies, Head of Facilities, at The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust. 

We discussed the impact of digital on their sustainability ambitions, what their green plan is working towards, and some of their projects contributing towards. 

Here’s what Justin and Tina had to say… 

There are so many innovative things going on 

“We have a lot of sustainability champions now throughout the Trust,” Tina said. “We’re making good headway. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for what we are actually doing.” 

Tina said that she is passionate about the NHS and believes that teamwork is the key to success for delivering on their green plan: “We are one business, and we need to work together; it’s about our work ethic and how we help each other. 

“There are so many innovative things going on – one example is with waste, we were the first trust to introduce reusable sharp containers.” she added.  

Reducing paper, efficient equipment, to a search engine with a conscience… 

Justin highlighted the use of digital in sustainability and how much it is contributing to reducing their carbon footprint: “For us, what we’re doing right now is focusing on some of the low hanging fruit, like using Microsoft Teams. 

“We use Attend Anywhere, which is our virtual patient appointment system, that’s been a huge help. Attend Anywhere is great – last year, we saved 1148.8 tons of CO2 emissions by not having those appointments onsite. Patients haven’t had to drive in, which is particularly significant bearing in mind that a lot of our patients are Welsh so there can be long journeys involved. 

Justin said that he had worked out that it would take 604.3 hectares of forest a year to capture the amount of CO2 saved through virtual appointments. “Virtual appointments are brilliant for the patient if we can do it and they don’t have to travel in, but we can also look at the other side; what are we saving from a sustainability point of view? The benefits there are massive.” 

However, “You do have to be very aware of digital inclusion,” Justin added. “There are people who can’t use Attend Anywhere or Teams so we must make sure that we cater for them and look at how we can provide that service for them.” 

When it comes to printing, Justin explained the trust currently uses recycled paper and recognises the need to transition away from paper all together. “We have had paper for thousands of years and now we are saying don’t use it anymore – it’s odd how we started off with tablets in the prehistoric times, and now we are back with tablets – just very different ones! But we have things like our printing software Preton, which helps us drive efficiencies through reducing costs and CO2 emissions.” 

From a computing and user perspective, Justin added the need to use a laptop instead of a desktop: “A laptop uses between 20 and 50 watts of electricity, whereas your desktop would use around 175 kilos of CO2 per year, if it ran for eight hours a day – that’s the equivalent to driving 1138 miles a year. We reduce that in a laptop by 75 percent, which works out as saving the equivalent of 1,365,000 driving miles of CO2 a year.” 

Justin said that the trust is already reducing the amount of electricity they use “by a considerable amount”, adding: “We use power saving software, so if technology isn’t being used we can push it into hibernation, turning everything off but keeping the hard drive and data going. We can really start managing our digital and green footprint in this environment and it shows it with those figures. You can measure things, and once things are measurable, you can then put key performance indicators into place and move forward.” 

As Justin also works for Cheshire and Merseyside NHS Foundation Trust, he explained that there are little things that can impact your footprint: “I’m currently testing a search engine called Ecosia for the Cheshire and Merseyside area. Ecosia takes all the advertising revenue from your searchers and using the platform, and uses it to plant trees. At the moment it’s at 153,874,000 trees and it is constantly ticking up. It allows you to feel good about yourself because you can see the impact of your work on the environment – all from using a “a search engine with a conscience” they call it. 

“We are looking at other weird and wonderful things like looking at email signatures – that’s a pretty big fish, actually, if everyone has a huge email signature, then you’re taking up space on a disk drive somewhere that actually isn’t necessary.” 

Digital at the point of care 

Justin and Tina shared some of the benefits that digital can bring for patients such as their EPR (electronic patient records) system. 

“Our own in-house EPR has reduced use of paper. As well as reducing our carbon footprint, that means the information is directly available to the caregiver at the point of care, so we are benefiting the patient. 

“Our neurophysiology department uses some at-home telemetry now, which means that patients don’t need to come in – they can do it from home and the data is all moved across naturally. It’s a patient benefit because they are not traveling, and it’s a benefit for us because a bed can be used for someone else and we can keep the patient flow moving. There’s also the added benefit of being to stay at home in their familiar environment for patients, whilst still being confident that we are monitoring them. 

Ultimately, they said, “Everything we do is for patient benefit. By looking at digital inclusion and sustainability, we can help make The Walton Centre – which is already a centre of excellence – go beyond that.” 

We would like to thank Justin and Tina for sharing their thoughts and time.