Simon Harris, CEO of Avrenim, speaking with Health Industry Leaders on the NHS’s net zero ambitions

Simon Harris, CEO of Avrenim, recently spoke with HIL (Health Industry Leaders) to discuss the NHS’s ambitions of being the world’s first net zero national health service and the challenges the NHS are facing.

Two goals define the NHS’s decarbonisation strategy. The first is to reach net zero on emissions they directly control, known as the NHS Carbon Footprint which includes facilities, fleet vehicles, and electricity by 2040. The second goal is to reach net zero on emissions they can influence, the NHS Carbon Footprint Plus which includes catering, manufacturing, and staff commuting, by 2045

Discussing the challenges facing the NHS, Simon Harris explained:

“You’ve got a very ambitious agenda within the NHS to reach net zero by 2040, and approximately 40% of the net zero target is derived from buildings and building infrastructure, energy, etc., so it’s quite a challenge.

“You’ve got an old estate that’s trying to do very new things that sometimes aren’t compatible, and the biggest challenge that we’ve found supporting NHS estate customers is that they actually don’t understand what their baseline performance is today in full.

“There is a big data gap as well, so there’s a lot of analysis that needs to be done to enable a clearer understanding of baseline performance today, what different measures could achieve for you, costs associated with making that happen, and the net result.”


The role of facilities management in progressing towards net zero

As an expert in Facilities Management, Simon shared his expert opinions on the important role FM can have in the NHS’s efforts and progression to net zero:

“If we take FM as an overall umbrella, we are there at the sharp end delivering the capability of that building, so whatever the building is, whatever it’s been designed for, it’s FM’s responsibility and remit to make that building run as efficiently as it possibly can.

“Obviously, at times you are hamstrung by what you’re inheriting, and then you can then put forward innovative ideas, saying we either change the way the building operates, we change behaviours in the building, we do some external passive stuff or we do some internal technologically based stuff. Then we can get the building to perform even more efficiently.”

During the discussion, Simon raised the point that the advancement of AI technologies can be used to recognise patterns in a building’s use and make changes accordingly through predictive algorithms. For example, when an AI recognises that a certain room is scheduled to be more populated on a given day of the week, the energy expenditure can be altered accordingly to save energy for when it is needed most.


Improved efficiency impacts patient outcomes

A commonly faced challenge for Avrenim is persuading decision-makers to invest in the necessary changes needed to make their facilities run more efficiently, especially when the priority for spending is often on patient outcomes.

While the NHS understandably seeks to care for its patients as its primary goal and function, Simon explained how allocating more money to FM for net zero purposes can also support patients, and that more understanding of the impact that the built environment can have on supporting patient outcomes is required.

In regards to this, Simon said: 

“NHS estate teams have been decimated over the years, they have been the focus of cost-cutting and so on because obviously patient outcomes are the priority of any NHS trust. That’s where the money goes.

“There’s an educational piece here in a bigger context that says if you get your building set up and the infrastructure that goes with it designed appropriately, that supports patient outcome, it’s not a hindrance and a draw, it supports and facilitates those things because nobody wants to be closing areas of a hospital to repurpose it for something else.”

To find out more surrounding this topic, read the article in full here.