Successful trial for sustainable healthcare technology for gas and air

The Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (UHB) has used new green technology for childbirth, marking a milestone in reducing nitrous oxide emissions.

Nitrous oxide has been an essential aspect of health care delivery and is commonly used in anesthetics. However, studies have shown that nitrous oxide has a global warming potential more than 265 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Entonox, commonly known as gas and air, is a combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen. In Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, using Entonox is equivalent to emitting 4,495 tonnes of CO2 each year.

Entonox carbon reduction units were developed in Sweden and are able to collect exhaled nitrous oxide and ‘break’ it down into nitrogen and oxygen – which are considered harmless.

Cardiff and Vale UHB have worked closely with patients and staff on the implementation of the Entonox Carbon Reduction Units. The Entonox project is part of a wider activity to reduce the use of nitrous oxide at Health Council sites.

There are currently four nitrous oxide collectors on Health Board sites, which is the typical storage method.

Findings from a multi-disciplinary project team from Cardiff and Vale UHB revealed that wastage from this type of system can be high due to leaks and loss of gas from the supply.

The Board of Health tested portable nitrous oxide cylinders at Children’s Hospital Wales in a one-on-one pilot project which significantly increased efficiency, from 2.5% to 74%.

Following the success of the pilot, the team rolled out the pilot study across the organization via The Spread and Scale Academy, with the ambition to share ideas and drive change across Wales.

To date, the Health Board’s University Hospital Llandough site has fully decommissioned its nitrous oxide collector and plans are underway to decommission the main collector at the University Hospital of Wales.

The Healthcare Without Harm report says 5.6% of UK emissions come from healthcare facilities and NHS Wales’ decarbonisation plan highlights the reduction of anesthetic gases.

The Board of Health has projected savings of 1.15 million liters of nitrous oxide or 679 tonnes of CO2 each year.

Charlotte Oliver, Consultant Anesthetist and one of the clinical leads for the project at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said: “I am truly proud of the hard work the team has put in to get us to this point, defying the standards of treatments that have existed for decades and allow us to reinforce our commitment to reducing our environmental impact.

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