Zoe Garoufalia interviews Cleo Kenington about the current situation and future perspectives for sustainable surgery in the UK.

Cleo Kenington is a consultant in Emergency General Surgery and Major Trauma at London's St George’s Hospital, London representative on the ASGBI council, and lead for sustainability at the ASGBI.

Main points covered in the interview

The term 'sustainability' is widely used in our days to describe programmes, societies, and practises. In reality though, it refers to four distinct pillars: human, social, economic and environmental.

  1. Human sustainability aims to improve the human capital in society
  2. Social sustainability aims to preserve the social capital by maintaining and improving social quality
  3. Economic sustainability aims to improve social equality and the standard of living
  4. And, finally, environmental sustainability aims to improve human welfare through the protection of natural capital. This pillar of sustainability is often confused as synonymous with sustainability

Cleo notes that although the NHS has done a lot of work in the past twenty years to reduce its carbon footprint, nevertheless there is still room for progress especially within surgery. The amount of energy consumed in operating theatres as well as anaesthetic gases that contribute as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions should be carefully monitored, regulated and reduced.

Cleo highlights the need for sustainability guidelines and guidance by professional organisations with the support from industry. She notes that 'being a surgeon is not just about doing the operation but thinking about the whole patient and making sure that your actions improve patient’s health'.

Reusable surgical kits, focusing on prevention as well as avoiding the use of anaesthetic gases are simple steps toward a more sustainable practise are actions that many of us may easily adopt, says Cleo. Concluding, she points out the need for the formation of multidisciplinary teams and their close cooperation to efficiently make change.

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