4 February 2016 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
NHS hospitals across England could save more than £100 million a year and significantly reduce their carbon footprint simply by encouraging staff to use the stairs.
The savings would be achieved if just 15% of England’s 350,000 NHS hospital nurses stopped using hospital lifts and used the stairs instead.
Analysis by StepJockey – a Department of Health seed-funded start-up – uses “high-quality energy and time-saving data” from published studies to calculate the gains, which include:
• Reduced lift energy consumption;
• Staff time saved;
• Improved staff wellness and absence.
The savings, says the study, could make significant inroads into the £2 billion deficit NHS trusts are expected to see by the end of the 2015/16 financial year.
Last September, NHS England's chief executive Simon Stevens repeated calls for hospital CEOs to invest in staff wellness, pointing out that NHS absence costs a massive £2.4 billion a year.
Stevens told hospital bosses: “NHS staff have some of the most critical but demanding jobs in the country,” and “when it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly, the NHS needs to put its own house in order.”
A recent report by The Health Foundation also highlighted room to improve efficiency in the NHS by nudging individuals to make healthier, more efficient choices without resorting to so-called ‘nanny state’ interventions.
The NHS, like all major employers, also has challenging targets on energy savings and carbon emissions. The research, using the Carbon Trust’s Empower energy savings calculator, shows increased stair use would avoid nearly 25 tonnes of CO2 being produced over five years.
Huntsville Hospital Health System – the third-largest hospital group in the US – has already increased staff engagement with their health by implementing StepJockey Smart Signs and Challenges.
Helen Nuki, a behavioural economist and co-founder of StepJockey, said: “Sometimes it is the simplest of changes that can make a difference. A switch to the stairs would not just generate significant time, health, and energy savings for the NHS, but would free up hospital lifts for patients who most need them.
“It is the scale of the NHS and its centrally run property portfolio that make these significant savings not just possible but very much achievable.”
More information and a detailed breakdown of the analysis are available on the StepJockey website.