Driving sustainability in pharmacy for the health of patients and the planet

13th April 2022

The climate emergency is the single biggest threat facing our planet today. It poses a huge risk to the stability of our economic, social and health systems and is predicted to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths every year between 2030 and 2050.

It’s a bleak picture, but healthcare professionals have the opportunity to make a real difference to protect and improve people’s health.

On 15th July 2022, the Great North Pharmacy Research Collaborative Conference will be held in person at the Hilton Hotel in Gateshead. The theme for the annual conference is Sustainability in Pharmacy: The health of patients and the planet.

The conference is a fantastic opportunity for trainee pharmacists to meet senior influential figures in the industry, to discuss how to innovate and promote sustainability.

As Vice Chair of Sustainability for the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists, Co-Founder of Pharmacy Declares, a member of Medact North East and the UK’s international liaison for Rx4Climate, this year’s conference Chair, Min Na Eii, is calling for everyone in the profession to play their part in bringing about change.

Here, Min Na, an Advanced Pharmacist Practitioner at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, blogs about the event and the role of pharmacy in driving sustainability and the green agenda.


From a young age, I’ve always been passionate about the environment and aware of the impact of pollution. I grew up in tropical Borneo where deforestation and pollution has had a huge impact on animals such as the orangutans which live in the rainforests. As an animal lover, the risk to our planet’s species from the effects of climate change is monumental – we will lose so much if the global temperature rises.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has forecast that without immediate and effective action, climate change could cause 250,000 additional deaths each year between 2030 and 2050 alone.

Action on climate change is vital for a healthier and fairer society. In the words of former US President Barack Obama: “We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”

What does this mean for pharmacists and how can we make a difference?

When we come together at the Great North Pharmacy Research Collaborative Conference in July, we will discuss ways we can support the pharmacy community to take climate action within healthcare and ensure that we are all environmentally responsible.

The NHS has already made significant progress decarbonising care, but as the largest employer in Britain, responsible for around 4% of the nation’s carbon emissions, if this country is to succeed in its overarching climate goals, the NHS has to be a major part of the solution*.

Within the sector, people are campaigning hard for change and exploring ways to reduce our environmental impact. The upcoming generation of pharmacists coming into the industry have an exciting opportunity to shape their version of a more sustainable future.

It might feel like we’ve got a mountain to climb, but anyone can be a change agent. There are steps that every pharmacist can take and collectively, we can make a difference to increase sustainability in our profession and improve global health.

Innovating for change

So, what can we do? In February 2021, I joined fellow pharmacy professionals to start a conversation about sustainability in pharmacy.

We founded the Pharmacy Declares movement, to galvanise pharmacy professionals and regulatory bodies into action to tackle the climate and ecological crisis and protect lives. We are calling for:

  • Financial divestment from fossil fuels and reinvestment of funds into environmentally and socially beneficial areas.
  • Declarations of Climate Emergency – honest recognition of the situation in which we find ourselves.
  • Climate-Health Leadership and Education – promoting an understanding of the climate and ecological crisis, our roles in contributing to it and simultaneously in its mitigation.

In a recent publication by the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer (Good for you, good for us, good for everybody; A plan to reduce overprescribing to make patient care better and safer, support the NHS, and reduce carbon emissions), the role of the medicines supply chain and the impact it has on the carbon footprint of healthcare was discussed.

The reasons are wide-ranging, but many can be reduced by our profession such as reducing polypharmacy, improving medicine supply chain efficiencies, becoming more carbon literate, reducing carbon emissions (for example lower carbon inhalers), supporting the prevention agenda and healthier lifestyles, and being aware of our own personal responsibility.

Winning hearts and minds

In our busy, time-pressured roles, it’s not surprising that some people in the profession aren’t fully aware of the gravity of the situation and the environmental impact of wastage.

The Great North Pharmacy Research Collaborative Conference is an opportunity for us to say that sustainability shouldn’t be a bolt-on to our work, it’s a core part of the service. If the NHS is going to reach its net zero carbon target by 2040/45, we need to act now and the pharmacy profession has a key role to play.

At the conference, we will showcase trainee pharmacist projects and work undertaken by pharmacy professionals from hospital, community and primary care, as well as examples of research undertaken at our local academic institutions.

The event is an opportunity to meet peers and leaders from across the profession, to share best practice, learn, support and be supported.

By working together as one pharmacy team across multiple organisations and sectors we have a unique opportunity to improve quality of care, reduce risk of harm from medicines and increase efficiencies.

We’re looking forward to meeting in July. We’re encouraging delegates to arrive using sustainable transport. Our talks and panel discussions will be inspiring and motivating. We will all learn from each other and come away from the day with a renewed commitment and the courage to create a more sustainable approach to pharmacy for the future.

To register your place at the conference, visit our Eventbrite page.

If you are interested in exhibiting or speaking at the conference, please contact [email protected].

Follow us on Twitter @GtNorthPharmRes #GNPRC2022 to join the conversation.

You can find Min Na on Twitter @minna_eii


*Source: NHS England