Sustainable Procurement and Operational Efficiency in the NHS: A Data-Driven Approach


Contact us to discover how we can collaborate with you to address your specific sustainability challenges and help you achieve your goals, visit the S&S website. Together, let's build a more sustainable NHS for the future.

 Amid growing demand and an ever-evolving healthcare landscape, the challenge of ensuring sustainability within the NHS becomes a pressing concern. According to a publication by the Royal College of Physicians, sustainability can be considered a domain of quality in healthcare, extending the responsibility of health services to patients not just of today but of the future. A sustainable approach has the potential to improve patient outcomes and provide immediate benefits, including additional motivation for clinicians to engage in quality improvement, directing their efforts towards high-value interventions and enabling capture and communication of a wider range of impacts on patients, staff, and communities.1 This article aims to shed light on the imperative need for sustainable procurement, waste management, and energy-efficient practices within the NHS. 

The Challenge in Detail

Sustainability is becoming an essential focus in healthcare, particularly for the NHS. The NHS accounts for 25 percent of public sector carbon dioxide emissions in the UK and is coming under increasing pressure to reduce its environmental impact.2 At the same time, the health and social care system is facing an unprecedented financial challenge. The concept of sustainability can be helpful in addressing both imperatives.2

The NHS spends £500 million a year on energy, making healthcare one of the nation’s highest energy-consuming industries.3 Every year, NHS providers produce approximately 156,000 tonnes of clinical waste that is either sent to high temperature incineration (HTI) or for alternative treatment (AT), which is equivalent to over 400 loaded jumbo jets of waste.4 This has a significant environmental impact and is associated with high running costs and carbon emissions.4 These figures highlight the significant consumption of resources in the NHS and the potential environmental impact. It’s important for healthcare systems to continually evaluate and improve their sustainability practices. 

Sustainable initiatives  

The NHS has embarked on several sustainability initiatives to reduce its environmental impact and improve operational efficiency. The “Greener NHS” program is one such initiative, which aims to reduce the impact on public health and the environment, save money, and reach net carbon zero.5 In October 2020, the NHS became the world’s first health service to commit to reaching carbon net zero.5 One year on from setting out these targets, the NHS has reduced its emissions equivalent to powering 1.1 million homes annually.5

Another key initiative is the NHS Supply Chain Sustainability Strategy, which aims to support the NHS in becoming the world’s first carbon net zero national health system by 2045.6 This strategy includes a range of sustainable initiatives such as reducing the use of plastics in products supplied to NHS trusts, and developing compliant frameworks aligned with interventions identified in the Net Zero Report.6

Sustainability efforts in the healthcare work environment can lead to a healthier work environment, which in turn can improve patient care. Environmental impacts arise from the production of healthcare materials and from healthcare provision itself. These impacts include greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, water pollution (including with chemicals and pharmaceuticals), reduced biodiversity, and waste production.7 These impacts contribute to increased health risks, including acute and chronic respiratory conditions, cardiovascular conditions and neurological conditions.7

Approximately 60% of the total carbon footprint of the NHS is related to procurement with £20 billion spent per year on goods and services.8 Reducing wastage and generating efficiency savings will make NHS procurement more financially sustainable and also save a considerable amount of carbon.8 The best waste management practices reduce waste, improve compliance, and can lead to significant cost savings from lower waste volumes.9 They also have a significant part to play in minimising harm to the environment and increasing resource utilisation.9 This all leads to a reduction in carbon generated from waste and saving taxpayers money.9 Financial savings of over 20% can be achieved through a more-considered approach to the procurement of waste services and the management of the service.10 For example, by correctly and accurately segregating waste, a private healthcare provider saved more than £225,000 in the first 15 months and increased its overall recycling rate to over 97%.10

In the complex landscape of healthcare, sustainability often requires more than internal changes; it also necessitates forging the right partnerships.  

At J&J MedTech, we firmly believe that sustainability goes hand in hand with delivering value to patients and optimising healthcare outcomes. That’s why we are supporting the NHS in achieving its net zero goal by 2040. J&J Services & Solutions offers a comprehensive sustainable product lifecycle partnership that aligns seamlessly with the NHS's goals for more environmentally friendly and cost-effective operations.

  • Sustainable product lifestyle: Our comprehensive recycling schemes ensure that packaging is disposed of responsibly, minimising waste and promoting the principles of a circular economy.  
  • Pathway mapping for environmental impact reduction: Our expertise in pathway mapping allows us to identify opportunities for reducing resource consumption, optimising workflows, and improving operational efficiencies.  
  • Training initiatives for greener surgery: Our training programmes align with the Royal College of Surgeons Green Theatre Checklist to equip surgeons, healthcare staff, and procurement teams with the knowledge and skills needed to implement greener surgical practices.

Key takeaways  

Sustainable practices in procurement and operations are not just ethical imperatives but essential components for the long-term viability of the NHS. The benefits are two-fold: cost-saving and a reduction in environmental impact, both of which contribute to better public health outcomes.

Contact us to discover how we can collaborate with you to address your specific sustainability challenges and help you achieve your goals, visit the S&S website. Together, let's build a more sustainable NHS for the future.


  1. Frances Mortimer, et al. Sustainability in quality improvement: redefining value. Future Health J. 2018;5(2):88-93.  
  2. The Kings Fund. Sustainable health and social care. Connecting environmental and financial performance. March 2012.  
  3. BSI. Managing energy use in our hospitals. Available at: [Accessed November 2023].
  4. NHS England. NHS clinical waste strategy. Version 1, January 2023.
  5. NHS England. Greener NHS. Available from: [Accessed November 2023].
  6. NHS. Sustainability. Available from: [Accessed November 2023].  
  7. NICE. Environmental Sustainability. Available from: [Accessed November 2023].
  8. NHS Sustainable Development Unit. Saving Carbon, Improving Health. Available from: [Accessed November 2023].
  9. NHS England. NHS clinical waste strategy. Available from: [Accessed November 2023].
  10. Building Better Healthcare. NHS could 'save millions' by improving waste management. Available from: [Accessed November 2023].