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Hilary Benn launches climate change hotline at St Thomas'

Environment secretary Hilary Benn used a lecture at St Thomas' Hospital to call on the public to follow the "modest yet determined example of Florence Nightingale" when tackling climate change.

Hilary Benn and Patricia Moberly
Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP with Patricia Moberly, chair of the Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust

More than 200 guests filled Governor's Hall at St Thomas' Hospital on the South Bank last week for the annual Lord Mayor's Lecture, this year delivered by environment secretary Hilary Benn.

The minister used the lecture to launch a new national Act on CO2 advice line (0800 512 012) offering free practical advice on energy efficiency, home renewables generation, sustainable transport, water efficiency and waste and recycling.

"It is an honour to be here at St. Thomas' this afternoon in a place with such a tremendous reputation for learning, for pioneering research, and for the care of the sick," said Mr Benn.

"You may be wondering why I was so keen to accept your invitation to come to this great hospital to talk about climate change.

"Well one reason is because you are committed to reducing emissions by a remarkable 20 per cent. Another is because you have sixty people – and I hope some are here today – who have volunteered to lead the practical steps that are necessary to achieve that reduction – turning off unused office equipment and switching off lights."

Compared with 2005/06 gas consumption at Guy's Hospital and St Thomas' Hospital is down by 14.64 per cent, equal to 2,484 tonnes of CO2, and electricity consumption down by 5.64 per cent, equal to 1,804 tonnes of CO2.

The NHS foundation trust has also recruited 60 local energy representatives from across Guy's and St Thomas' and trained them on energy saving initiatives, and there are plans to include energy awareness training both on the staff induction day and as part of mandatory training.

So far staff have submitted more than 400 energy saving ideas via a special email address.

Other initiatives include the installation of combined heat and power (CHP) plants at both hospitals, an enhanced recycling programme,and quarterly meetings with a team from the Mayor of London's Climate Change and Sustainable Transport division to exchange ideas.

The minister ended the lecture by invoking the name of Florence Nightingale who was closely associated with St Thomas' Hospital.

"I think the greatest cause for optimism is our history – and what it teaches us," he said.

"In 1860, Florence Nightingale founded the School of Nursing here at St Thomas'. She was not a scientist. She did not discover some miracle cure. But she saved many thousands of lives, and her legacy has saved millions more. And her gift to us was to change the way all of us think about the care of the sick.

"We too do not need to be brilliant scientists to understand the dangers of climate change.

"We too do not need to wait for the discovery of a miracle technology to act.

"If all of us follow the modest yet determined example of Florence Nightingale, then we too can find within ourselves the ability to take the small, necessary steps to stop climate change."

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