Circular economy crucial for NHS to reach net zero, report says



The NHS must phase out single-use medical products and commit to reusing and re-manufacturing equipment to reach its net zero targets and reduce costs, a new report showed.

The MedTech Spotlight report is a roadmap to accelerating circular economy adoption in healthcare that focuses on the medical technology sector, the University of Exeter said. The report concludes that “business as usual” is no longer possible.

The report highlights global supply chain volatility to material scarcity, decarbonisation targets, tightening budgets, growing patient demands, healthcare disparities and escalating waste production as challenges facing the UK health and social care sector.

Professor Peter Hopkinson, Co-director of the National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research (NICER) programme’s CE-Hub at the University of Exeter, commented: “A circular economy offers a tangible solution to the systemic challenges faced by the UK medical technology sector.

“Our report identifies pain points and opportunities, and presents comprehensive recommendations to drive sustainable innovation and address the systemic challenges shaping the future of healthcare provision in the UK.”

A circular economy offers a tangible solution to the systemic challenges faced by the UK medical technology sector.

The MedTech Spotlight report said that a circular economy, where waste is designed out of the lifecycle of a product, and products and materials are maintained, reused and remanufactured where possible, can “address systemic health system challenges while delivering the transformative change necessary to reach net zero”.

The report highlighted an initiative by medical textiles start-up Revolution-ZERO which produced reusable surgical gowns, operating theatre drapes and other PPE items.

The MedTech Spotlight report’s key recommendations include the creation at the policy level of a practical roadmap for change and the development of circular economy education programmes for UK health and social care professionals that would form part of core training.

Professor Fiona Charnley, Co-director of the NICER CE-Hub, said: “Achieving a circular medical technology system within the UK needs to be a priority, but it requires clear leadership and collaborative forward-looking actions from all stakeholders throughout the value chain.

“To make this a reality, we identify recommendations for five key stakeholder groups: regulators and policymakers, industry and supply chain, clinicians and patients, healthcare providers and NHS, and academics and research partners.”

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