Skip to main content
Creating a new NHS England: NHS England and NHS Digital merged on 1 February 2023. More about the merger.

Part of Sustainability Annual Report 2021-22

Operational and carbon highlights

Current Chapter

Current chapter – Operational and carbon highlights

Our collective efforts delivered a 28% reduction in total CO2e emissions from the previous year, which is a 75% reduction from our original 2013-14 baseline year.

We achieved year-on-year reductions across all 3 emissions scopes:

Scope 1 reduction of 25%

is mainly attributed to the benefits of consolidating our Leeds and London estates away from multiple legacy sites to BREEAM buildings with higher energy efficiency ratings.

Scope 2 reduction of 26%

can also in some part be attributed to the move to BREEAM buildings, as well as significant reductions achieved from exiting the HMLR data centre at the end of December 2021.

Scope 3 reduction of 32%

is largely attributed to the benefits achieved from moving NHSmail from on premise data centres to Office365 (O365) and hyperscale cloud.

NHS Digital’s absolute consumption highlights compared to 2020-21:

  • colocation energy was reduced by 24% partly due to the exiting of the HM Land Registry data centre
  • estates energy was reduced by 17% and water consumption was reduced by 51% driven mainly by the Leeds and London estate consolidation to BREEAM premises

The noted increases to absolute consumption for 2021-22 being:

  • travel: train travel and hotel bookings increased compared with 2020-21 levels, as expected due to the easing of lockdown restrictions 
  • waste: ICT waste increased as end of life disposal was paused during 2020-21 due to the pandemic and resumed in 2021-22, effectively resulting in 2 years' worth of associated activity which is comparable to pre-pandemic reporting periods

NHS Digital’s absolute carbon total reduced 28% compared to 2020-21, driven by similar factors to those responsible for the absolute consumption reductions. In addition, NHS Digital’s continued push on the use of hyperscale cloud services, and cloud vendors driving efficiencies and increasing off-setting, enabled us to host more services on hyperscale cloud while still achieving carbon savings.

NHS Digital’s absolute cost total increased by 10% compared to 2020-21: 

  • we are reporting a 435% increase in our colocation data centre electricity costs for 2021-22 from the previous year. This is due to a correction made in 2021-22, which now includes NHS Digital’s Redcentric data centre which was previously omitted. If this correction were to be removed, the comparison of like-for-like scope with 2020-21 would show a 16% reduction
  • while NHS Digital’s energy consumption has continued to reduce, our total energy costs have increased by around 16% which can be directly attributed to increasing energy charges

Business travel

NHS Digital’s move to hybrid working in 2021 brought an expected reduction in business travel. While organisational travel remains significantly lower than previous years, the organisation is actively managing and monitoring travel patterns to prevent a return to pre-pandemic levels.

Hybrid working

Following the introduction of NHS Digital’s hybrid working policy and guidance, our hybrid working patterns have continued to emerge and evolve and are not yet considered sufficiently stable to be able to accurately include hybrid working emissions in our footprint, as was planned for in last year’s report; therefore, this is a recognised gap in our 2021-22 Sustainability Annual Report.

However, during 2021-22 we have continued to improve our understanding of the impacts and benefits of hybrid working and enhanced our tools and reporting across the organisation. Recognising that most employees were working away from office locations, the organisation included employee commuting and business travel questions in its engagement survey to better understand future patterns of work and travel and their potential impact.

NHS Digital employs an electronic booking system that enables employees to book desks only when they require them. This system supported the organisation’s move to hybrid working, allowing a gradual ramp-up of available office space in line with the demand and avoiding the need to cater for every employee on site post-lockdown. Improved access to office utilisation statistics and reporting allows us to use real data to inform location strategy and other organisational decisions.

Image of colleagues meeting on a Microsoft Teams call


Our Tech Services team, who are responsible for the provision of employee ICT, have also facilitated our move to hybrid working. At their regular stand-up meetings, there is a standing agenda item to discuss new collaboration tools which has resulted in an increase in the number and variety of collaboration tools now available to our employees. In addition to its core Microsoft Teams application, NHS Digital now supports Slack, Trello, Product Board, Figma, and Mural – with Tech Services holding a series of user training sessions on how to get the most out of Mural. The Tech Services team also introduced daily virtual tech hub sessions which are open Microsoft Teams sessions for users (predominantly new starters) to access direct technical support for small issues and guidance. These sessions vastly reduce the need for employees to travel to a site specifically for IT-related issues. The team also increased its remote IT training offering, with an emphasis on collaborative working and best practice.

The sustainability programme developed a ‘Home energy saver guide’ to provide employees with tips and advice on how to save energy in the home and reduce their carbon footprint, including tailored guidance for both homeowners and renters.

Water usage

NHS Digital’s introduction of hybrid working saw many employees continuing to work from home, resulting in reduced use of NHS Digital’s office estate.

In 2021-22 we:
  • used 5,358 cubic metres of water across our estates and facilities 

  • reported a reduction of 74% water consumption compared to our 2017-18 baseline year

This reduction also represents a 72% drop in carbon emissions related to water use (from our 2017-18 baseline year).

Last edited: 4 November 2022 4:12 pm