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Nurses ‘can be leaders’ in climate change fight

The Royal College of Nursing has released a position statement on climate change, acknowledging that climate change ‘undermines the very foundations of our health’, and recognising that the negative consequences on people’s wellbeing are ‘set to be catastrophic if we do not act now’.

The College maintained that nurses have a vital role to play and that their ‘expertise, diverse roles and the trust invested in them mean they can be leaders in protecting the health of the public from the consequences of climate change’.

The RCN has now committed to engaging with its members and to take action on behalf of them, noting that as the largest profession delivering, influencing and leading health and care globally, nursing and midwifery ‘is uniquely placed to advocate, educate and lead action to mitigate risks’ associated with climate change.

Over the next six months, the RCN plans to refine its key climate change objectives in line with its strategic support of the climate emergency.

The College will focus on several approaches to shape consultation with its members and stakeholders across the UK including:

• placing health and social inequalities at the heart of climate change activity

• identifying and sharing practical ways in which members can engage and contribute proactively with the Royal College and influence employers to adopt innovative actions such as the ‘Clean Air Hospital’ framework and RCN Glove Awareness Campaign

• lobbying for accelerating sustainable procurement, specifically for items used by nurses and midwives to deliver care

• lobbying for closer alignment and transparency of UK Government policies and budgets where mutual benefits exist, for example the alignment of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and sustainability policies

• supporting and strengthening relationships with stakeholders advocating on behalf of health institutions such as the UK Healthcare Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC) to maximise co-ordinated action and impact to protect and promote public health

• showcasing the contribution of nursing and midwifery alongside the Acting to ensure the contribution of UK nursing and midwifery is showcased at the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Glasgow in 2020.

In addition to these actions the RCN ‘acknowledges the need to investigate the impact of our institution to better understand our environmental impact and agree actions to reduce the RCN’s carbon footprint’.

Finally, while the College says that immediate action will be ‘challenging’, it is encouraging individual nurses to take personal action and in turn commits to using ‘our joint voice and advocacy power to ensure that Government plays its part’.

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