Regional partnership ‘Highly Commended’ by British Medical Journal

Regional partnership ‘Highly Commended’ by British Medical Journal

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Jeane Freeman (third from right-hand side), Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, with members from NHS and ERI involved in securing the Alliance for Water Stewardship standard

An innovative Highland partnership has been ‘highly commended’ for their work at the 2020 British Medical Journal Healthcare Awards Ceremony. The ‘One Health Breakthrough Partnership’ involving NHS Highland, UHI’s Environmental Research Institute, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Water, HIE and the James Hutton Institute, received the recognition in the highly contested Environmental Sustainability and Climate Action category.

The BMJ Awards are the UK’s leading medical awards and are now in their 12th year. They seek to ‘promote excellence in healthcare and recognise the inspirational work of healthcare teams across the country’, and received more than 350 nominations across fourteen categories.

The OHBP is tackling the environmental impact of healthcare activities including the risk to water pollution from the use of pharmaceuticals (medicines). Even though medicines do much good, their administration, excretion and progression through wastewater systems has led to their detection in rivers and other natural waters. Here they can exert biological effects on aquatic life and contribute to antimicrobial resistance.

The OHBP partners recognised that pharmaceutical pollution is an emerging problem and that no single agency could address this challenge in isolation. The partners identified joint and multi-disciplinary approaches on upstream interventions and technological solutions to improve water stewardship. This included conducting research, linking with other HEIs, waste surveys, “greening” formularies, developing guidance for prescribers and the public, producing a video on antimicrobial resistance and working with NHS Estates department to achieve the Alliance for Water Stewardship standard. Recent work with Caithness General Hospital resulted in this site becoming the first hospital in the world to receive the Alliance for Water Stewardship standard, recognising NHS Highland’s social responsibility for sustainable healthcare and protecting the environment.

Sharon Pfleger, Consultant in Pharmaceutical Public Health, NHS Highland said “we are really proud to have had our work highly commended at the BMJ Awards.  We are working hard to improve the NHS’s social responsibility around water and the environment, reducing the impact of pharmaceuticals on the environment whilst improving the health of our population. Eventually we hope to spread our work across the world to help heal our planet as well.”

Stuart Gibb, UHI Vice Principal and Director of its Environmental Research Institute said “this recognition underlines the value of partnership working toward addressing complex issues that cut across organisational and disciplinary boundaries. It also given us confidence that good healthcare and environmental stewardship can be practiced and promoted together. “

Further good news is that the partnership has just secured funding from Water Industry Division of the Scottish Government to ensure that it can further develop work in seeking to reduce environmental impact of pharmaceuticals.

Further information on the research behind this standard can be found here