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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Four major medical bodies join forces to combat 'world's biggest threat to human health'

Embargoed until 18 October 2010

Acknowledging the findings of The Lancet that climate change could pose the “biggest global health threat of the 21st century”, four key medical bodies have signed up to the 10:10 campaign, which helps organisations and individuals reduce their carbon emissions by 10%.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych), Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), and Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), have all joined 10:10, mindful of the threat posed by climate change – significantly in terms of patient’s physical health and mental wellbeing.

As a result, tens of thousands of GPs and thousands of psychiatrists nationwide, GOSH’s 3,200 staff, and the RCN – the staff of which act for hundreds of thousands of nurses – will be encouraged to increase energy efficiency to reduce carbon emissions.

Professor Dinesh Bhugra, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists which represents 13,000 psychiatrists in the UK, highlighted the indisputable benefits of a low-carbon lifestyle to mental health. “Research shows a low-carbon lifestyle can improve mental health – which is why the RCPsych is proud to be playing its part in the 10:10 campaign,” he said. “People who engage in active, low-carbon activities, such as walking or cycling more often, are not only cutting emissions but keeping their bodies and minds healthy. For mild depression, physical activity can be as good as antidepressants or psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy."

Professor Bhugra added: “Working together to tackle climate change could even help prevent harm to people’s mental health at an international level. Climate change as a result of global warming is likely to trigger increased flooding and greater risk of natural disasters across the world. As we have seen with the recent floods in Pakistan, these sorts of disasters can lead to destitution and poverty, which are associated with mental illness. Over the coming months, staff at the RCPsych will be working hard to cut our air and taxi travel, reduce our fuel consumption and make our eight offices across the UK more energy-efficient.”

Aware of the potential impact of emissions on children's health globally, Dr Jane Collins, chief executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: "I passionately believe that climate change is a serious threat to children's health, particularly in the poorer parts of the world.”

Referring to current redevelopment at the world-famous children’s hospital, she added: “We hope GOSH's redevelopment will be as green as is practical for a city centre hospital. We have already started to audit and reduce our impact on the climate, but our commitment to 10:10 shows our determination to do more."

Speaking on behalf of the RCGP – a network of more than 40,000 family doctors – sustainability lead Dr Tim Ballard said: "Climate change has rightly been identified as posing a significant risk to human health, and the RCGP is committed to promoting sustainable practice throughout primary care.

"We recently hosted our first-ever sustainability-themed annual conference, where the challenges facing not only GPs, but all healthcare professionals, and the public at large were discussed at length. This is too big an issue to ignore."

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, which has 400,000 members nationwide, said his organisation had a duty to “lead the way” when it comes to energy efficiency. He said: “Better health is at the heart of the RCN’s work and it’s a natural fit for us to sign up to committing to reduce emissions. With temperature extremes, storms and flooding threatening health, organisations like ours need to do all they can to lead the way. We’ve already made a significant start in looking at our building management functions and in waste disposal, but in signing up to 10:10 we are now committing to go much further.”

10:10’s health strand is coordinated by Tim Nicholson of the Campaign for Greener Healthcare.

10:10 UK campaign director Eugenie Harvey said: “I’m thrilled that these four key health organisations have committed to reducing their emissions, having all acknowledged the significant threat to human health posed by climate change.”

“By adopting 10:10 these bodies will not just be cutting their emissions –they’ll be saving money too. At a time of cuts, this will enable hospitals like GOSH to spend more on patient care and less on their energy bills.“

“These significant sign-ups to the campaign come soon after thousands of 10:10 members took part in the biggest day of positive action on climate change ever held, and four capital cities – Paris, Mexico City, Amsterdam and Zagreb – pledged to cut the emissions of their public services.”


For further information, please contact:
Kathy Oxtoby or Deborah Hart in the Communications Department.

Telephone: 0203 701 2544 or 0203 701 2538

 

References:

10:10 is a movement of people, schools, businesses and other organisations working together to cut carbon by 10% in a year.

 

Note to editors:

The Lancet’s report, published in May 2009, concluded that, "Effects on health of climate change will be felt by most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions of people at increased risk. During this century, the earth’s average surface temperature rises are likely to exceed the safe threshold of 2°C above pre-industrial average temperature."

 

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