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Part of Sustainability Annual Report 2019-2020

Climate adaptation and resilience

Adapting our services to be resilient in the context of a changing global climate requires both short term business continuity planning as well as a longer term strategic focus on resilience.

Current Chapter

Current chapter – Climate adaptation and resilience


Summary

Adapting our services to be resilient in the context of a changing global climate requires both short term business continuity planning as well as a longer term strategic focus on resilience.


Business continuity processes at NHS Digital ensure that our contracted data centres have flood and heatwave risk management measures in place. However, our new site in Leeds, which we move into in 2021, is directly next to a river that has flooded in recent history. Appropriate mitigation measures will be required to manage this risk, although we will not host our data centres in this building.

However, thinking beyond the simple first order impacts of climate change, at its most basic, the climate emergency is a public health emergency as shown by the work of the Lancet – the flowchart below maps the linkages (courtesy of Alexis Percival at Yorkshire Ambulance Service).

Climate emergency flowchart

Image description

This is a climate emergency flowchart, produced by Alexis Percival at Yorkshire Ambulance Service. It shows how the effects of climate change can put pressure on the health sector.

Climate change leads to:

  • increased rainfall, flash flooding and surface water floods
  • storms and high winds
  • heat
  • drought
  • sea level rise

 Via a variety of mechanisms, these each have the potential to put extra pressure on the health system.

Examples include:

  • energy insecurity
  • injury and disease associated with flooding
  • injury from extreme weather
  • health problems and cancer associated with increased heat and ultraviolet radiation
  • respiratory problems linked with air pollution
  • malnutrition linked to drought
  • socio-economic instability

Climate breakdown will adversely affect the NHS and we will take a precautionary approach, ourselves – how can NHS Digital services be resilient to the impacts of climate breakdown while also bringing resilience to the health service?

The global COVID-19 pandemic has involved huge amounts of resilience planning and learning. The pandemic mirrors one of the forecast public health impacts from climate breakdown – rises in infectious diseases. It is a dress rehearsal for the coming decades.  

As part of formalising our climate change risk assessment during 20/21 we will investigate processes like the Climate Related Financial Risk Disclosure to quantify operational delivery risk and we will contribute to the health service strand of the UK Climate Change Commissions National Adaptation Plan.

Last edited: 19 October 2020 3:54 pm