Sustainable Healthcare: Reducing the Environmental Impact of Operating Theatres

Contact: Pelin Demirel


Department: Dyson School of Design Engineering

Institution: Imperial College London

Project timeline: February-July 2024 (flexible on the start times within this

Project duration: 13 weeks

Closing date: 5 January 2024

Expertise required:

-The student is expected to have research experience and
interest in the sustainability and/or healthcare areas.
-Experience in behaviour change or human centred design
would be an advantage.
-Candidates with experience in either qualitative or
quantitative research methods are welcome to apply for
the role.
-Candidates are expected to have strong data analysis and
academic writing skills.

Project description: The healthcare sector is a major emitter of Greenhouse Gases, accounting for 4-5% of the total emissions worldwide. The drastic impact of climate change on our health and healthcare services is increasingly visible as the WHO estimates 14 million people die from environmental health risks annually; calling for a holistic approach to human and planetary health.

Reducing waste in operating theatres (OTs) is crucial for reducing the environmental impact of healthcare, as OTs are three-to-six times more energy-intensive than the rest of the hospital and a major contributor to waste.

The NHS Net-zero strategy was implemented in 2020 with a view for the NHS to become the first net-zero healthcare provider in the world by 2045. Facilitating the necessary conditions for NHS staff to adopt sustainable behaviours where possible is an important element of the NHS net-zero transition. While healthcare professionals widely report enthusiasm for environmental sustainability, individuals do not always make environmental decisions in practice despite their best intentions.

This project aims to co design and test behavioural interventions to minimise the waste of disposables in Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust OTs. Working closely with the OT personnel and combining expertise from behavioural science and environmental sustainability fields, the project aims to facilitate environmental behaviours during surgeries.

Description of the work involved: The student will have the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary research team that includes clinicians, sustainability experts, design engineers and behaviour scientists. The student will contribute to the daily running of the behaviour change trials in NHS hospitals, collect observational data from the trials in operating theatres, analyse survey and interview data. It is expected that the student will co author one or two research papers with the research team members.

Student benefits:

-Co-authorship on research papers that will be submitted to high impact peer reviewed journals.

-Gain experience working in an interdisciplinary team that includes design engineers, behaviour scientists, clinicians and sustainability experts.

-Deepen knowledge in areas of sustainability, behaviour change and co-design methodologies.