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NHS Forest sites & food for life: How North Bristol NHS Trust promotes sustainable healthcare that doesn’t cost the earth


Esther Coffin-Smith is Sustainable Development Manager at North Bristol NHS Trust and has worked in sustainability within the public sector for over 16 years.  North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT) has its main hospital at the Southmead site with other locations including Cossham Hospital, the Centre for Enablement at Cribbs Causeway and Thornbury Hospital.  There are 8,000 staff working at NBT, aiming to deliver excellent clinical outcomes and a great experience for everyone who uses their services: exceptional healthcare, personally delivered.

To celebrate Healthy City Week 2017, we asked Esther to share her experiences of promoting health and wellbeing that doesn’t cost the earth…  

“I’ve been working for North Bristol NHS Trust for just over 10 years now – my longest time in one place!  One of the reasons for that is because there are always more exciting opportunities coming along.  Whether it’s funding that suddenly becomes available or a suggestion from a member of staff that blossoms into a project idea or an invitation to collaborate with others, we’ve always got lots to get our teeth into!

There are 6 of us covering sustainability and we sit in the Sustainable Health and Capital Planning team.  Between us we encourage staff and public alike to find out more about topics such as: sustainable & active travel (TravelSmart), energy/water/waste reduction, healthy & sustainable food, staff and public engagement, biodiversity enhancement, air quality improvement, climate change adaptation, sustainable models of care and through all of this we try to develop innovative approaches to capture people’s interest and enthusiasm.  We have even been known to dress up in a giant pea pod costume to attract visitors to the stalls at our annual sustainability fair!

Being surrounded by a team of like-minded people is one of the best things about working at NBT.  Being the sole greenie can be really tough and in many NHS Trusts there are just one or 2 people trying to pull together everything we deliver here. That team spirit together with those moments of gold when you see someone make the connection between an unsustainable habit and the impact on health (which is the nature of our business after all), really makes the job worthwhile.

We can afford to be fairly proud of ourselves, both as a team but also more widely as a Trust as we have achieved a lot over the past 10 years. We have a brand new, highly efficient, light, beautifully airy hospital building with amazing views over green space and Bristol vistas.  We’ve successfully increased our cycling contingent from 12.6% in 2013 to 21% in 2016.  We now have 34 buses arriving on site every hour.  Our amazing catering team produces 3,000 freshly prepared meals a day to the Soil Association’s Food For Life standard (bronze for staff and silver for patients).  We’ve saved £52,000 a year by not throwing away furniture which could be repaired/ cleaned/reused.  The new hospital development incorporates, rather boringly titled, ‘Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems’ but who cares when it reduces surface water run-off from our site by 40% and provides a habitat for dragonflies (amongst other things)!  We also lovingly collect rainwater to water our new 750 trees and shrubs and are an NHS Forest site.

The excitement of moving into the new building in 2014 seems to have never worn off.  People are still putting forward suggestions for things we can do better; areas to save energy or reduce waste, things to help boost our health and wellbeing or protect biodiversity.  The latest idea was recently approved and Southmead will see the addition of a staff and patient allotment over the next 12 months.  In fact we couldn’t do what we do without the co-operation of our colleagues.  To encourage them we launched the award scheme Green Impact during Healthy City Week in 2015.

Last year our teams did us proud – a total of thirty teams (197 staff) across clinical and administrative services took part, achieving 913 actions ranging from energy, waste and water efficiency campaigns through to health and wellbeing by encouraging healthy lifestyle choices such as active travel, healthy eating and lunchtime walks. Oh, and it also saved an estimated £51K and achieved carbon savings of 289,849kgCO2e) which we were pretty pleased with!  To celebrate and reward our staff we teamed up with long-standing participators in the Green Impact scheme, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol to hold a joint award ceremony.  A lovely evening of recognition, sharing stories and a little tipple of Fairtrade wine!

For anyone interested in keeping up with our activities we are regular users of social media – via Twitter and Facebook.  We publish our annual sustainability report in October which is worth a read for the stunning photos it contains.  For anyone who would like to get involved with what we do you can always sign up as a volunteer ( or if you have cash to spare and want to support one of our projects, we have a Southmead Hospital Charity fund (Sustainable Healthcare) that people can donate to.”

  • For further inspiration and practical tips on sustainable healthcare and wellbeing that doesn’t cost the earth, drop-in to the Healthy City Week expo in the Heart Institute of the BRI this Thursday (5 Oct) between 10am and 1pm
  • Also on Thursday, come along to the evening ‘Green Mingle 5.30-7.30pm at The Station, Silver Street. Nibbles and drinks will provided at the evening mingle, and it’s a unique opportunity to network in an informal setting with individuals from the health and sustainability communities of Bristol.
  • Healthy City Week continues between 7 – 14 October with a range of talks, workshops, debates and activities that aim to create and deepen conversations around some of the major health and sustainability challenges we face. Download the HCW 2017 programme, share with colleagues – and why not print a copy for your staff noticeboard! 
  • We close the 2017 programme with a session on Building Healthy Cities (9am, 20 Oct) during Festival of the Future City, with a range of speakers including Robert Woolley, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.
Nature, Food, Health & Wellbeing, Blog, Healthy City Week
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