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First Net-Zero NHS Operation

First Net-Zero NHS Operation
25 May 2022

A surgical team at Solihull Hospital has performed the world’s first documented net-zero operative procedure.

The keyhole surgery was to remove a bowel cancer and the operation introduced several sustainable changes to the team’s normal practice. This included using reusable PPE and giving medications through the veins for general anaesthesia rather than anaesthetic gases, which have a strong greenhouse effect.

The theatre team travelled to the hospital by either walking, running, or cycling.

At the end of the operation, the team used the calculator to estimate the reduction in carbon output for the operation compared to the usual output. They calculated that the carbon output was reduced by almost 80 per cent, with the remaining output then offset this through a variety of projects, including the planting of trees in the grounds of Solihull Hospital.

This brought the total carbon output for the operation to net-zero.


Watch the Video




Operating Theatres Contribute 25% of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust’s Carbon Footprint


The net-zero operation involved all members of the team including the surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses, cleaners, porters, and managers.

HB Consultant Surgeon and Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham Mr Aneel Bhangu said: “Operating theatres are resource-intensive environments, contributing to 25 per cent of the trust’s carbon output. We cannot achieve net-zero health systems without making surgery more green, so this is a vital proof of concept step.

“Ensuring healthcare is environmentally friendly is important to patients and communities. These measures require changes in behaviour and care pathways across complex teams. We now hope to work with colleagues across the UK to create a wider impact across the NHS and provide best practice that will help healthcare professionals around the world.”


Carbon source

Carbon output of a typical operation (kg CO2)


Reduction in Net-Zero surgery (%)

Anaesthetic and surgical gases




Electricity use



Waste production



Gown and drapes








Table: the above table shows both the carbon output in kg of different elements of a typical operation, and the reduction made by percentage in the net-zero operation


Picture: a photograph of three people wearing surgical scrubs. Image Credit: Pexels

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 25 May 2022


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