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SHIL Sustainability Innovation Call

Scottish Health Innovations Ltd (SHIL) is seeking sustainable, forward-thinking ideas from health and social care professionals that can help support NHS Scotland to adapt, develop and strengthen in response to climate change.

With NHS Scotland also committing to be a 'net-zero' greenhouse gas emissions organisation by 2045 at the latest, significant work is undoubtedly required. The behaviours of NHS Scotland’s 160,000-strong workforce will influence how the service mitigates and adapts to climate change impacts; and so, encouraging this diverse workforce to come up with new ways of working is vital and is at the heart of the latest Scottish Health Innovations Ltd (SHIL) innovation call.

“Innovation that achieves sustainable outcomes can, and should be, entirely complementary to the enduring everyday drive for healthcare excellence. That’s why our sustainability call is so important at this time. Not just because COP26 is taking place in Glasgow and the eyes of the world are on Scotland, but also because NHS Scotland’s strides towards net zero can improve vital patient care, while achieving major lasting environmental and financial benefits too. A greener health service that responds to environmental risks and meaningfully changes the way it operates is a better health service”
Graham Watson, Executive Chairman, SHIL

Innovation Call

A package of support for health and social care staff with ideas to support NHS Scotland:

  • up to £25,000 of initial funding
  • regulatory support
  • project management
  • extensive innovation expertise

SHIL Sustainability Innovation Call download
SHIL Sustainability Innovation Call briefing event 

Submissions can be made now via www.shil.co.uk/submit

This is a simple process - taking approximately 5-10 minutes, and all submissions are confidential.

No set limit, the intention is to rapidly assess all submissions and fast track those with potential. Sustainability is a key priority area for NHS Scotland and we want to harness the talent and experience of all those working in the NHS to help improve operational efficiency from both a carbon and cost perspective while also maintaining, or ideally, improving the quality of care received by patients.

All ideas are welcomed – from simple to complex, from all disciplines and any member of staff. Ideas fitting the green and sustainable theme may range from ‘Multiplex’ devices, such as waste-reducing lateral flow tests with more than just one channel, to new ideas for greener packaging which can be composted or recycled rather than sent to landfill.

The need for a more sustainably-focussed health care system has never been clearer. Climate change continues to result in poorer health for the Scottish populace – indeed, there are around 2,000 premature deaths each year in Scotland due to poor air quality, while physical and mental health impacts of climate change inevitably have an impact on demand for NHS services.

At the same time, NHS Scotland is coming under increasing pressure to reduce its environmental impact. In delivering its many vital services, NHS Scotland consumes huge amounts of resources and produces significant volumes of waste. That is why it has committed to becoming a 'net-zero' greenhouse gas emissions organisation by 2045 at the latest.

Developing new innovations to help address climate change and realise three-fold efficiencies - environmentally, financially, and operationally - is important. Sustainability is a huge challenge for the NHS and it’s with this in mind that we are seeking innovative ideas and inventions.

SHIL is offering initial and rapid ‘kick start’ funding allowing promising innovations to be fast-tracked with additional funding leveraged as needed to support development, testing or manufacture. SHIL have years of experience in leveraging additional funds from organisations such as Scottish Enterprise, Innovate UK, EU and private investment community. 

SHIL can offer funding and support for NHS projects and our focus is making new devices available via commercialisation. This ensures not only the best new healthcare products actually reach the market and improve patient outcomes but also creates some profit for the inventor and their health board employer.

In simple terms, yes. SHIL has worked in partnership with NHS Scotland since 2002, protecting and supporting NHS initiated ideas, but we also assess and support ideas from students, members of the public, start-ups, SMEs and established companies that would benefit from collaboration with the NHS.

Innovation is central to the improvement of sustainable patient care. It’s true that the NHS has been under extraordinary pressure in recent times, but it is always keen to adapt and thrive in new areas of research and development. The innovation call is a direct response to professionals who identified sustainability as a key priority going forward. Solutions can be simple or complex and from all disciplines. A simple online submission form captures the idea and then the team at SHIL (Scottish Health Innovation Ltd) will drive this forward. The team has always worked in this way, collaboratively with health professionals, managing projects that would otherwise be difficult to balance with personal or clinical commitments.

This will vary by project and depends on many factors e.g. complexity, stage of development, funding requirements.

SHIL has an established national innovation pathway but has the capacity to act quickly on innovation. The initials steps couldn’t be easier. You can make a submission by applying on the SHIL website – www.shil.co.uk 

There is a short 3-step online submission that requires you to submit your basic information, the concept, and then you can submit your idea for consideration by a range of experienced professionals within health research and regulation.

SHIL will assess and support selected innovations from concept to the final product. The innovation team have years of experience evaluating ideas from health professionals.

An established evaluation process exists including the viability of the idea, regulatory considerations, market assessment, commercial feasibility, clinical evaluation and technical considerations. These will be flexible and proportionate to the urgency and need for innovation.

The SHIL team are operating remotely. The innovation team cover the whole of Scotland and are available via email or mobile to support as required. Useful resources are also available via the SHIL website.

“This is a significant step forward for NHS Lothian and demonstrates the importance of clinical leadership in addressing Climate Change, ensuring that we take every opportunity to bring our models of care in line with our responsibility for the environment.”

That’s the message from Jane Hopton, Programme Director and Sustainability Lead at NHS Lothian as it takes a vital lead in sustainable initiatives with two pilot projects aimed at reducing the harm that medical gases cause to the environment – and it hopes that others will now follow that example.

St John’s Hospital in Livingston recently became the first hospital in Scotland to use a new machine which makes delivering babies eco-friendly. The hospital is also the first in the UK to use a particular piece of technology which recycles anaesthetic gas.

Andrew Goddard, Consultant Anaesthetist in NHS Lothian, said: “We’re delighted to be the first hospital in Scotland to run both of these pilots and take a huge step forward in reducing our carbon footprint, tackling climate change and the risk to others.”

One of the pilots focuses on Nitrous Oxide, which is commonly used during childbirth and in NHS Lothian there are between 8000-9000 births per year, with 72% of people in labour making use of it at some stage. The Nitrous Oxide, mixed with Oxygen, is inhaled in during a contraction and can provide rapid and effective pain relief during Labour. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost.

Nitrous Oxide creates carbon emissions which has a negative impact on the environment. The gas can also create potential risks to workers who may be exposed to low levels of this gas over long hours on a day-to-day basis.

The treatment for the mother in labour is the same. However, by turning this gas into Nitrogen and Oxygen it removes the impact to the environment and the risk to others.

Agata Zajac, 26, was one of the first mums in Scotland to give birth using a new environmentally-friendly machine. She said: “I had no idea the gas used in labour was so harmful to the environment or to staff long term. I think this machine is really important and am thrilled to finally meet baby Nathan, especially knowing that he's one of the first babies to be born in Scotland in an environmentally friendly way whilst using this gas.”

The second pilot focuses on recycling anaesthetic gases. At present, like all hospitals, NHS Lothian relies on Anaesthetic Gas Scavenging Systems (AGSS) to safely remove patient exhaled anaesthetic gases from the anaesthetic room and operating theatre. However, these gases are then released directly into the atmosphere which has a negative effect on the environment.

This new technology can now capture, store locally and later recycle these volatile anaesthetic agents, almost eliminating their greenhouse gas contribution.

Jane Hopton added: “Addressing the environmental impact of medical gases is essential if the NHS is to achieve a pathway to Net Zero. We believe now this innovative technology exists, it is imperative to drive it forward across the whole of Scotland and the UK.

“We further believe that it is a great example of the kind of forward-thinking green ideas that SHIL is hoping to inspire and draw out from health and social care professionals with its new sustainability innovation call as NHS Scotland works together in exciting new ways to adapt, develop and strengthen in response to climate change.”

The Balfour Hospital and Healthcare Facility has delivered a fit-for-purpose healthcare facility for the benefit of NHS Orkney’s patients, carers, staff and the wider community.

This has ensured that the health needs of the population are met within an environment that is efficient, resilient and sustainable and which allow the delivery of integrated hospital and primary healthcare services.

Thanks to cutting-edge technology and equipment, the project – which opened in 2019 – has been designed to be as flexible and ‘future-proof’ as possible so that the building itself, its systems, and its staff can adapt to meeting the changing needs of the people and communities of Orkney.

The use of technology has helped to support and develop telemedicine, remote consultations, and virtual clinics. This has reduced the need for patients to travel outside of Orkney for the majority of routine care, and supported better communication in remote locations.

At the outset of the project, a dynamic thermal simulation model informed initial energy efficiency decisions including building form and fabric selected for their insulation properties, careful consideration of efficient heat sources, and how best to achieve natural ventilation and daylight. Indeed, the success of the facility means it is unique in terms of both its structural design and energy efficiency.

In another first for the UK, with no gas supply on the island, the facility is fully electric powered. The prime heating source is electric heat pumps, with hot water provided via air-to-water heat pumps. Photovoltaic cells provide a feed-in-tariff benefit. Additionally, the car park is equipped with vehicle charging points and all internal and external lighting has been designed to be as energy efficient as possible.

Other energy efficient measures include low energy LED light solutions used throughout including low loss fluorescent sources where required for clinical purposes. Lighting control software meanwhile allows capability to reduce/switch off lighting during unoccupied periods.

Moreover, the curved form of the building with its airtight structure protects the main entrance space and inpatient accommodation from extreme island weather conditions.

To ensure the design was robust, deliverable and sustainable, specific attention was paid to resilience across the design of the building, how it was equipped, and the design and installation of mechanical and engineering systems. This was so that the building and its life-critical systems could be maintained for extended periods in the event of, for example, failure of systems or extended periods when travel to and from Orkney was disrupted.

No landfill facilities in Orkney meant that careful waste management was required. 99.97% of construction and 100% of excavation waste were diverted from landfill.

Significant off-site pre-fabrication, including structural steelwork, with a focus on ensuring water tightness as early as possible in the programme, enabled lowered energy use despite the rural location and extreme weather.

The envelope of the building was designed to make best use of trades and materials available on the islands, reducing carbon and maximising social value, not to mention 50 islanders forming part of the workforce.

NHS Orkney is proud to say that the building has not only maintained but improved on its sustainability goals since opening in 2019.

The health board now runs a fleet of electric vehicles and is developing the green space around the hospital for the benefit of staff, patients and the local community. Funding has also been secured to provide a community area for polytunnels. NHS Orkney will use these to encourage the use of the greenspace as a health-promoting asset.

Furthermore, an onsite restaurant uses produce from small island businesses wherever it can – meat, cheese, eggs, bread and more are sourced locally to reduce carbon footprint and support the Orkney economy.

A pilot study is currently looking at the potential to install a Particle Measuring System. The purpose of this is to provide cleanroom and isolator monitoring so that greater efficiency might be realised when maintaining the environment required for optimum operating conditions. The benefits would be a reduction of electricity, an increase in the machinery lifecycle, and extra resilience.

When patients are given a general anaesthetic, one of the ways of keeping them asleep is by using an anaesthetic gas. There are a couple of options as to which gas can be used. The difference between these choices from the patient’s point of view is small but the effect these agents have on the environment is not equal.

One of the gases in common use – desflurane - has a significantly worse impact in terms of how long it stays in the atmosphere, and how it contributes to the greenhouse gas effect. As an example, one small bottle of desflurane in its liquid form - which might provide a few hours of anaesthesia - has the same carbon dioxide equivalent as a whole year’s eight-mile commute to and from work by car.

As a result, teams at the Anaesthetic Department at Glasgow Royal Infirmary instigated a project to persuade colleagues to limit their use of desflurane as much as possible. The project has been successful with the use of our environmentally damaging desflurane anaesthetic gas plummeting from £7000 a month at its highest, to months with no expenditure at all.

“To put it another way - in three months we have saved the carbon dioxide equivalent of all of the consultants in the Department’s annual commute to work put together,” says Dr Geraldine Gallagher of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

She adds: “This is just one example of how we can work together to try and mitigate the environmental damage we inadvertently cause. Work is ongoing at the QEUH and also the Children’s Hospital as more and more colleagues look for ways to make our work as sustainable as possible. The innovation call from SHIL is a great stimulus for staff across NHS to come up with greener, more sustainable approaches – it takes us all working together to make an impact.”

Contact the team

  • Immediate enquiries can be sent to info@shil.co.uk
  • The team is fully operational on a remote basis - email and mobile numbers are available via Our People section of the website

 All advice and support from SHIL will be kept under continuous review to reflect changing circumstances.