NHS leaders in south east London are urging local people to think about what they can do to improve the quality of the very air we breathe this week – and for the future.
The UK’s largest campaign on air pollution takes place on Thursday.
It is estimated that 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year due to air pollution and the city has the highest proportion of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution of all English regions.
London mayor Sadiq Khan published a report last year showing that every single hospital, medical centre and care home in the capital is located in an area that exceeds the World Health Organisation’s guidelines for the concentration of air pollutants.
Dr Jonty Heaversedge, Joint Medical Director for the NHS in south east London, explains that cleaning up our air doesn’t just help the environment. It is important in improving and protecting the health of everybody, particularly in many parts of south east London where pollutants we breathe in are often above the limits experts regard as safe.
Dr Heaversedge said: “When a person breathes polluted air, small pollution particles can enter through the lungs and into the blood stream, and there is now strong evidence about the damage air pollution causes to our bodies. Research has shown a connection with asthma, heart disease, some cancers, and possibly even some mental health problems.”
Dr Heaversedge said: “The South East London Integrated Care Board brought together the five local NHS trusts, six councils and many of our GPs last year in our first ever ‘Sustainability Summit’. They agreed that cleaning up the air we breathe must be a priority for us locally. We’ve put in a lot of measures to encourage our own staff to make a difference but we all need to pull together to achieve that.”
Many of us can do our bit to improve air quality on the streets we live in and the parks we and our children enjoy.
Car owners can help out by giving their car a day off and using public transport instead on Thursday and at least once a month.
People can also get in touch with their local councillor to ask them to support clean air measures that make it easier for everyone in your community to breathe clean air.
Meanwhile, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital Foundation Trusts will publish their first joint Clean Air Plan on Thursday.
Tanja Dalle-Muenchmeyer, Air Quality Manager at both Trusts, said: “We are delighted to publish our first Clean Air Plan setting out the actions we are taking. We’ve identified five focus areas and 27 priority actions for 2023/24 that will help us reduce our own contribution to air pollution and raise awareness of the issue amongst a wide range of people including our patients and staff.”
The Trusts’ focus areas for this year include:
Reducing air pollution from their buildings and sites
Addressing air pollution from their transport vehicles, and encouraging others to do the same
Working closely with their procurement teams and suppliers so they reduce their contribution to air pollution around the hospitals’ sites.
Everyone is invited to a Clean Air Day celebration – including an evening street party – organised by Better Bankside on Thursday. You can find out all about it here.