Climate Challenge Grants - Reuseable Surgical Hats

28 December 2023

NHS Lothian Charity supports Breast Theatre staff to reduce waste and save money with reusable surgical hats

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A team at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh is significantly reducing operating room waste and saving money after introducing reusable surgical hats thanks to a Climate Challenge Grant from NHS Lothian Charity.

Generally, staff working in surgical theatres use hats as part of infection control measures and at the Western General alone they get through over 30,000 disposable hats a year. The Breast Theatres team, eager to make their practices more sustainable, applied to NHS Lothian Charity to secure grant funding for washable hats.

Erica Revie, Consultant Surgeon in the Breast Theatres who led the project, said:

We had seen that there was a Climate Challenge Grant available from NHS Lothian Charity so we put together a proposal to try out reusable hats. We contacted NHS Fife, which is already using reusable hats, to discuss the practicalities of implementation, and contacted their supplier about our needs in order to undertake a trial. The Infection Prevention and Control Team and Laundry Service were also consulted to ensure we could still ensure the highest standard of cleanliness.”

Beyond cutting waste, the hats are also embroidered with individuals’ names and roles which has improved communication during emergencies when new staff enter the operating room.

Theatre Sister Lorraine Murray, who was also integral to the trial, was called to support a cardiac arrest not long after the introduction of the hats. A staff member who did not know her was able to ask her for specific help by name and instantly understand her role within the team.

It’s an easy change to make with dual benefits – environmental savings and improved communication,” said Erica. “We encourage other departments and hospitals to embrace it.”

By switching to reusables, the Breast Theatre operating rooms have significantly reduced discarded hats. Once rolled out to the rest of the Western General, it will save the hospital over £6,000 as well as reducing their carbon footprint.

Dr Jane Hopton, Sustainability Lead for NHS Lothian, said:

This is a great example of another team in Lothian wanting to make a difference in their area. They applied for the Climate Challenge Grant and used that funding to drastically reduce the waste caused by disposable surgical hats. Well done to Erica, Lorraine and everyone else involved in making this happen.

“Providing reusable surgical hats across all theatres in NHS Lothian is an important next step in reducing waste and our environmental impact.”

Jane Greenacre, Head of Programmes at NHS Lothian Charity, said:

The Charity is delighted to be able to support staff across NHS Lothian to take forward innovative projects like this. The aim of our Climate Challenge Grants is to enable staff to explore initiatives that help them embed green practices into day-to-day activities and reduce the impact of healthcare on the environment.”

Do you have an idea that could reduce the impact of healthcare on the environment?

Our Climate Challenge Grants could support you to take forward projects in your department, ward or area that put green activities at the core of your practices, helping you to reduce harmful greenhouse gases and tackle some of the issues surrounding climate change

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