Between March 31st 2008 and April 1st 2009, the renal team in a DGH not too far from me requested that their patients attend the hospital’s radiology department as outpatients on 534 occasions (although sometimes, of course, the patients had more than one test done on the same day).
With the help of GoogleMaps and the patients’ postcodes, and assuming that they travelled to and from their homes, I reckon that these patients clocked up around 25401 kilometres in attending these appointments.
The average distance for a one-way journey was 24 km. The National Travel Survey tells us that journeys of this length, within the UK, are undertaken by car (88% of the time), bus (3%), train (8%) and other (1%).
If we combine those figures with the DEFRA conversion factors of 0.20487 kgCO2eq/km for an average car, 0.10462 kgCO2eq/km for a bus, and 0.06113 kgCO2eq/km for a train, we find that carbon cost of all this travel was 4783.5 kgC02eq – ie nearly 5 tonnes of CO2 per year.
So just the travel, by just the outpatients, from just the renal team, in just one hospital, to just their radiology appointments, produces enough CO2 to fill up 5 large detached houses each year. In the same way that clinicians shouldn’t have to think about the financial cost of a treatment on an individual patient basis, I don’t think we should be thinking about the carbon cost of the interventions we organise as we book them. But you can see that if we want to reduce the emissions related to kidney care, we must find ways to integrate these considerations into the policies and patient pathways that determine how we provide kidney care nationally.
This blog was first published by the Campaign for Greener Healthcare: http://greenerhealthcare.org/blog/2010/01/driving-round-circles