05 Nov 2020
The healthcare sector has a huge impact on transport networks. According to the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, its 1.3 million staff, patients and visitors account for roughly 5% of road traffic in England each day.
This sheer volume of traffic not only slows people down, but it also affects the environment, health, road safety, access times for the critically ill, and the availability of land to develop much-needed facilities. We mustn’t forget the additional stress this puts on highly pressured healthcare sites too, as well as their surrounding communities.
To help reduce the impact of this traffic, Travel Plans have been widely implemented over the last 20 years, alongside associated car parking management strategies.
However, issues still arise at many Trust sites, including substantial queues for car parking and idling engines, which reduce local air quality. These are both evident during the traditional AM and PM periods and peak outpatient clinic times.
Wondering what else can be done? Here are three key initiatives we’ve identified:
As with many industries, the pandemic has led the healthcare sector to question which services genuinely have to be provided on estates. While there remains a significant need for ‘hands-on’ services to continue, there are opportunities for tasks to be undertaken off-site too.
For example, when a patient is at hospital, digital health can support a fully integrated care programme for diagnosis and treatment. When they’re at home or working, digital health is supported by remote monitoring and interactive communications via a patient portal. Similarly, there are opportunities to do many administrative duties remotely, which will ultimately reduce the pressure on car parking and the surrounding transport network.
Trusts may then be able to utilise the space previously used for those facilities now being undertaken off-site with new facilities, such as acute healthcare. These new facilities would of course generate additional traffic of their own – however it's unlikely this would be enough to offset the total journeys saved by digital and remote services. By taking administrative duties off-site, you can alleviate the pressure during the traditional peak hours (8-9am and 5-6pm) when the majority of these staff members travel.
Lower vehicle demand and emissions with car clubs
Another way to help Trusts reduce vehicular demand and environmental impact, helping them move toward Net Zero Carbon, is through car clubs.
Often, community nurses travel in their own cars to pick up supplies from hospitals at the start of the working day and thenuse their cars for patient visits. Similarly, staff may need to visit several Trust sites in the course of the working day and use their own cars to do this because options to travel by alternative modes are not available or convenient. However, having modern and well-maintained car club vehicles on-site means that staff can leave their own cars at home, travel to the hospitals by alternative, non-car modes and still undertake the visits required throughout the day using car club vehicles.
Sustainability through electric vehicles and low carbon energy
Good air quality is particularly important in a healthcare environment and is something that electric vehicles can help improve. There’s the potential to provide new transport hubs as part of a smart grid which would use sustainable techniques to generate electricity and charge electric vehicles. Transport hubs are well suited to a hospital environment due to the number of staff and patients that stay for long periods of time.
Low carbon energy can be generated on-site using combined cooling, heat and power, and supplemented by photo-voltaic cells and battery storage. All the energy and utilities would be managed by smart systems and technologies. These provide the dual benefit of improving air quality by reducing vehicle generated emissions, and reducing carbon emissions by using sustainable techniques to power electric vehicles.
There will clearly be an ongoing need to implement well-tailored Travel Plans to keep traffic generated by the healthcare sector in check. However, the additional identified initiatives will help to further reduce car traffic and, particularly important within the healthcare sector, reduce adverse environmental impacts such as vehicle emissions.
If you’re looking for advice about how to implement these changes on your site, contact Nick Roberts, Technical Director (Transport & Engineering). Alternatively, reach out to our Transport and Infrastructure team.
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