Facilitating Sustainable Waste Management Behaviors Within the Health Sector: A Case Study of the National Health Service (NHS) in Southwest England, UK
Waste costs the National Health Service (NHS) £71.2 million in 2007/2008; recycling all papers, newspapers and cardboard produced by the NHS in England and Wales could save up to 42,000 tonnes of CO 2. As the largest employer in the UK, the NHS is in a prime position to both lead the way towards a sustainable future, but also act as a test bed for organizational change and provide evidence of what works at an individual level to change attitudes and behavior. However these require changes in mindset, including values, attitudes, norms and behaviors which are required along with clear definitions of the problems faced in terms of economics, society and culture. Initial investigations of the literature indicate that behavior change theory may provide a feasible means of achieving constructive changes in clinical waste management; such approaches require further investigation. This paper describes a feasibility study designed to examine issues that might affect the introduction of a behavior change strategy and improve waste management in a healthcare setting. Guided by the evidence gained from our systematic review, 20 interviews were carried out with senior managers, clinicians and support staff involved in the management of healthcare waste from a broad range of agencies in South West England. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed for analysis. Thematic content analysis was conducted in order to identify key issues and actions. Data extraction, coding and analysis were cross checked independently by the four members of the research team. Initial findings suggest tensions, between Government and local policies, between packaging and storage space at ward level and, and between the operational requirements of infection control and maintaining appropriate and ethical patient care. These tensions increase pressures on staff already trying to maintain high quality care in a resource restricted and changing environment.
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