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Adapting to tomorrow’s climate in health and social care

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The NHS Sustainable Development Unit has produced guidance on adaptation to climate change for NHS Trusts and other health and social care organisations. The accessible sixteen-page guidance provides practical steps that will allow healthcare settings to coordinate their action on adaptation in line with national policy objectives and their local situation.

The report makes it clear that adaptation should be an “integral component” of all Sustainable Development Management Plans (SDMPs) for health care organisations and sets out the key risks. This publication should be considered a supplement to the NHS Sustainable Development Unit’s SDMP Guidance published in 2011.

Taking practical and local-scale responses as its starting point, the guidance opens with a two-page section explaining adaptation and listing key areas for action.

What is it that will have to be adapted to?
Why is this a critical issue for health and social care?

In answering these questions the guidance gives an excellent snapshot of the current state of UK government thinking about what we should expect from our climate in the future, but also gives useful context to anyone seeking to design adaptation as a critical element of organizational SDMPs.

Taking Action

The guidance makes a series of recommendations, including providing a five-step process and very comprehensive checklists of what should be contained in – or covered by – each organisation’s plans. This provides a concise and highly usable manual for anyone tasked with managing or creating a SDMP’s adaptation component.

In particular the report highlights existing national climate change or civil contingencies programmes that organisations’ own Adaptation Plans will want to harmonize with. These include very recent developments such as the National Adaptation Programme (NAP) and the UK’s first Climate Change Risk Assessment (UKCCRA2012) both of which are statutory requirements under the Climate Change Act. Analysis of the way in which Adaptation Plans overlap with and compliment existing Emergency Planning for NHS organisations is also provided.

Further underlining the report’s highly practical tone, it ends with appendices that provide a checklist for identifying key stakeholders in adaptation planning and also offers a useful list of links for further reading.

Those charged with drawing up Plans or augmenting those already in place should explore the NHS Sustainable Development Unit’s website. Along with this adaptation guidance, they will find a wealth of resources to support them, help them make the case to colleagues and engage patients on the road to sustainability.

Further reading


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