Hart Surgery Backs Zero Hour Campaign for the Climate and Nature Bill

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Dr Will Hearsey at the Hart Surgery

We talked with Dr Will Hearsey from the Hart Surgey in Henley to ask him about the links between healthcare and the environment – and why the Hart Surgery has signed up to support the CAN bill.

“At the Hart Surgery, our commitment has always been to provide exceptional healthcare to our patients and ensure the well-being of our community. We are proud to endorse the cross-party Zero Hour campaign for the Climate and Nature Bill, recognising the intrinsic link between health and the environment.

“In 2020, I wrote an article about the impact healthcare has on the environment, coinciding with the introduction of the Climate and Nature (formerly Ecology) Bill to Parliament. Despite some progress, we are at a critical point where climate change and biodiversity loss are on a knife edge. It is crucial for any incoming government to prioritise this Bill.

“Globally, healthcare accounts for 4-5% of CO2 emissions, with the NHS contributing 4% in the UK. As Europe’s largest employer, the NHS has a responsibility to become more sustainable. The 2022 ‘Delivering a Net Zero National Health Service’ report is a step in the right direction. Afterall, not only does the provision of healthcare significantly impact upon the natural world, but the demands on that healthcare service are hugely impacted by the quality of the environment around us.

“Climate change will increasingly mean more frequent and extreme weather events such as flooding and extreme heat, which result in not only physical trauma but also mental health impacts. Air pollution, which in Henley exceeds three World Health Organisation limits across the whole town and even out into villages like Shiplake, shortens life spans and results in high levels of asthma.  In 2022, there were 65 excess deaths during periods of higher temperature across Oxfordshire and in 2019 an estimated 2,300 years of healthy life were lost due to air pollution in Oxford.  

“It is well accepted that environmental degradation also has impacts upon the incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and the rates of illness related to river pollution is just another demonstration of the way in which our health is intertwined with the world around us. A healthy environment with plenty of wild space and abundant biodiversity not only improves our physical health (time spent outdoors lowers blood pressure and reduces risk of strokes and heart attacks) but also alleviates stress and improves mental health. 

The climate and nature crisis is a health crisis, and doctors are starting to sound the alarm.

“The Climate and Nature Bill is a pivotal piece of legislation that tackles the urgent crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. It aims to address gaps in the current legislative framework, and implement robust, legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restore nature. Importantly, this is a cross-party Bill, so it is independent of party politics, as these issues should be.

“By supporting the Climate and Nature Bill, myself and my colleagues at the Hart Surgery are advocating for policies that can significantly improve public health outcomes within our community. Cleaner air, more green spaces, and a stable climate will lead to healthier lives and, critically, reduce the burden on healthcare systems. By endorsing the Zero Hour campaign for the Climate and Nature Bill, I’m hopeful we can encourage other GP surgeries and healthcare providers both around the Henley area and also nationally to join us in this initiative.”

Dr Will Hearsey
Hart Surgery, Henley-on-Thames

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