For the mind, for the planet

Ella Rhodes on a new report on sustainability from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

A new report published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists claims a sustainable approach to healthcare can provide an answer to some of the current challenges in mental health. The authors outline how climate change could affect mental health services, as well as giving recommendations for building more sustainable mental health services in the NHS.

The Sustainability in Psychiatry report suggests that, although the World Health Organisation has recognised climate change to be the greatest threat to human health this century, healthcare services have been slow to recognise this. It also points out that the NHS is the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK public sector – using 25 million tonnes of carbon each year, and as buildings and energy-use only account for 17 per cent, reducing this will mean a significant change in clinical practices.

A sustainable mental healthcare system, the report says, will still need to provide high-value care in spite of environmental, economic and social constraints. It sets out the aims of such a healthcare system – to prevent mental illness, empower patients, staff and carers to manage their mental health, eliminate wasteful activity and make use of low-carbon alternatives.

Dr Daniel Maughan, the lead author of the report and Royal College of Psychiatrists Sustainability Fellow, said a change in culture and practice was needed. He added: ‘Sustainable psychiatrists need to develop a further role of stewardship, not only of the resources they are using but of the NHS as a whole and the effects that the NHS has at large. Reducing over-medication, adopting a recovery approach, exploiting the therapeutic value of natural settings and nurturing support networks can all improve patient care while reducing economic and environmental costs.'

Produced with the support of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, the report lays the foundation for developing sustainable practices in mental health in the UK and suggests every psychiatrist should review the sustainability of their clinical practice. Among its recommendations the report suggests that psychiatrists could use video assessments, use public transport when carrying out home assessments and ensure only necessary medications are supplied to patients to avoid wastage. 

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber