On a sunny september day we attended the official opening of the Hornsey Health Centre "to help people living in Hornsey to lead healthy lives". Sadly the sun doesn't seem to penetrate the new building and the lights are always on.Despite the balmy day, the NHS Haringey AGM was held in a room with closed windows and air-conditioning. Small plastic bottles of water were everywhere, though there was a drinking water tap outside the door. I was answered with disdain when i asked why jugs of water couldn't be used instead. But surely if the NHS deems our tap water unfit to drink, they should put out a public health warning?
The NHS Haringey annual report 2008/9 only contains one paragraph mentioning the environment.
"NHS Haringey is committed to ... becoming a sustainable organisation. Over the next year, we will develop an energy/environmental policy, undertake a complete survey of all energy consuming plant and equipment and record and review all energy use.... An action plan will then be developed and funding will be considered over the next two years."
It's barely credible, but this means they don't seem to have an environmental policy yet, despite being "one of the largest employers in the borough".
It was discussed in the meeting that no solution had yet been found to the transport problems for patients attending the health centre, in particular the awkward bus change at muswell hill.And after their difficult journey, what refreshments can the patients get?
The cafe in the foyer displays a wide array of bottled water and disposable cups. No fairtrade or organic drinks available, but it sells hot chocolate for £2. Expensive? Well there's no other cafe around, so no competition.
After the meeting the staff cleared food waste, recyclables & non-recyclables into the same bin-liner.
So is all this whinging about environmental concerns just a distraction from the serious business of healthcare and saving lives?
Earlier this year Kofi Annan's Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF) reported that climate change is already causing 300,000 deaths a year and "seriously affecting" 325m people.
Perhaps the guy who sneered when asked about the bottled water, and who wanted to know what the question had to do with the subject of the meeting, should attend the book launch of "The Health Practitioner's Guide to Climate Change":
'Climate change is the greatest public health disaster facing us today and one that requires action at local, national and international level. Only by firm and decisive action now can we, as a global community, hope to avert or mitigate an impending public health catastrophe of immense proportions.' Presidents of the Faculty of Public Health, Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the British Medical Journal.