Medicine suppliers must submit a sustainability assessment each year from 2024, says NHS England

Suppliers who do not submit an assessment from January 2024 will not be placed on medicines contracts, NHS England has said.
woman using laptop with warehouse in background

Medicine suppliers in the NHS supply chain in England will be required to submit an Evergreen Sustainable Supplier Assessment each year from January 2024, as part of the NHS ambition to reach carbon net zero by 2045.

Speaking at the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists’ Procurement and Distribution Interest Group Autumn Symposium held in Birmingham on 2 November 2023, Chris McAleer, medicines net zero project delivery manager at NHS England, said: “Across all NHS England medicines procurements, you [the supplier] will be required to submit an evergreen assessment.

“If you [the supplier] do not have a submission, you will not proceed on further in that procurement process and won’t be able to get placed on an NHS England medicines framework or contract.

“The way that we’re going to be monitoring KPIs [key performance indicators] with this, is that during the life of a framework or contract, if you lapse in not having a submission, we will treat that as a breach of contract capable of remedy,” said McAleer.

Once a supplier has made their submission, they will be assessed against four maturity levels that indicate alignment with NHS sustainability priorities.

“We’re not asking for a level, we’re asking that you make a submission,” said McAleer.

“The reason we’re doing that is because we understand suppliers are different parts on their journey. Not everyone is going to be at the top level, some people might still be collating information to put any information in there at all.

“This is why we want a submission, and it’s going to be a pass or fail,” he added.

Commenting on the assessment, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said it had been working with the Greener NHS programme on the development of the evergreen assessment and that it was committed to meeting the requirements.

The ABPI added that the assessment will allow companies/suppliers to engage consistently and through a single route with the NHS, as they collectively work towards the overall net-zero targets and timelines.

In October 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement published a report, which laid out ambitions to become the world’s first “net-zero” national health service. This included two targets: to become net zero by the year 2040 for carbon emissions the NHS controls directly, and to reach net zero by 2045 for emissions the NHS influences but does not directly control.

The report also highlighted that medicines accounted for 25% of emissions within the NHS and that several medicines account for a large portion of these emissions; anaesthetic gases account for 2% of emissions and propellant gases from inhalers account for 3% of emissions.

Commenting on the introduction of the evergreen assessment, Martin Sawer, executive director at the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA), which represents medicines wholesalers, said: “HDA members are currently calculating their respective carbon emissions footprint for their part of this journey for each medicine pack.

“This calculation will then be communicated to each manufacturer whose products the particular wholesaler or 3PL [third party logistics companies] stores and distributes.

“HDA and its member companies support the NHS net-zero agenda, which will present bigger challenges when it begins to include primary care in the future,” said Sawer.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, November 2023, Vol 311, No 7979;311(7979)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.200419

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