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Anaesthetics Team's New Initiative to Reduce CO2 Emissions of Theatres towards a Greener Wales

Wednesday August 9th 2023

The Anaesthetics team at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) is leading the way with an adaptive approach to saving costs & reducing emissions by encouraging looking into what equipment can be switched off when theatres are not in use.

It can be easy to forget the impact that our technology and devices have on the environment when they become an integral part of our daily lives. However, as health board buildings have changed over the years some elements of energy usage have not, and sometimes it could be a simple act of switching things off.

Jenna Stevens, Consultant Anaesthetist, Sustainability Lead, and Clinical Lead for the Decarbonisation Board at ABUHB, said “80% of the carbon footprint of in theatre is from its energy use.”

Anaesthetics teams have already made big changes with Dr Rachel Walpole, James Florence, and colleagues previously leading the way with the stoppage of highly pollutive Desflurane gas.

One major component of this latest change has been on the shutdown out of hours of Anaesthetic Scavenging systems.

Clinical Fellow in Sustainability, Tom Woodhouse said “These systems are a series of pumps which remove harmful gases from the theatre environment but they are highly energy intensive, so we are looking to minimise their use where not necessary.”

In regard to anaesthetic scavenging systems alone, turning them off out of hours gives a predicted saving of £40,000-50,000 and 40 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually with the current number likely to increase with the fluctuating costs of energy.

Of course, not all devices and equipment are easy to switch off from their historical installations and sometimes there is a need for the device to keep running. An example is the theatre’s ventilation system or the switch for all theatres to shutdown being historically a central point when first installed.

Although there are limitations, the message from Jenna and Tom is clear that every little helps towards the reduction of emissions and cost savings, and working together between departments we can hopefully achieve our 2030 goals of net zero carbon.

Tom encouraged: “By having other people aware and involved, they might be able to look at their own area and make the savings that we’re doing here.”  

Jenna added: “We are all more aware of energy use at home, and are ensuring we switch things off when not in use. So, if we can do that in the workplace as well so hopefully there’ll be savings to be made. We absolutely have to work together as a team, to make those changes, to make a greener Wales.”