This Sexual Health Week (11-17 September), we’re proud to be celebrating our HIV and sexual health and contraception (SHAC) green team who were awarded the Cathy Harman Award at the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) national conference.
The green team is a multi-disciplinary group in HIV services, SHAC and pharmacy, who work together to champion and implement sustainability across the department and have introduced a series of green initiatives across the service including increasing the use of reusable metal speculums.
The Cathy Harman Award acknowledges and rewards innovation and service modernisation in the field of sexual health.
The team received this win for their innovative ideas implemented across the service to make it more environmentally friendly, including their contributions which support UHSussex’s commitment to supporting the NHS to become the world’s first net zero health service.
The team, made up of doctors, nurses, health advisors, pharmacists, administrators, and patients, meet online monthly and keep in contact regularly. Many members of the team are also a part of the Trust Green Ambassador scheme.
Over the past two years, the team have set out to promote environmental sustainability, which was kicked into action by UHSussex Environment Week, seeing the team make over 300 green pledges about the small changes they would make to support the Trust’s green goals.
From cutting down on printing, introducing re-usable cups and meat free Mondays, these pledges saw almost 90% of staff within the department feeling they had made a permanent lifestyle change as a result.
The green team began looking at opportunities to promote sustainability in clinical practices and began investigating attitudes of practitioners and patients towards reusable metal vaginal speculums as a sustainable alternative to single use plastic.
Through a survey, the team posed the question of extending the use of metal speculums which were only used on a small number of practices. They found most colleagues and patients were favourable to the benefits of reusable metal speculums.
As part of a pilot project, the team have trained on the use of metal speculums, including the correct sterilising process and how to prepare one before use to make it as comfortable as possible for the patient.
Today, metal speculums are used commonly in sexual health clinics, the Claude Nicol Centre at Royal Sussex County Hospital and the Morley Street Clinic, now with more sizes available, and the team are edging closer to this reusable tool becoming standard practice.
Sarah Smith, Clinical Educator in HIV/GUM and Sexual Health Advisor said: “I was really grateful to the green team for supporting me to submit our efforts to BASHH and I’m delighted we were awarded the Cathy Harman Award. Sustainability in sexual health and HIV is a hot topic and despite us not being considered a high carbon emitter, we all play a role in the NHS to help it achieve a greener future.”