One Month on from Cop 26
Co-Locate is not an environmentalist activist group and it is not in our remit to propose the co-location of the ‘New Velindre’ on environmental grounds; all readers of our work should be fully aware of our central and over-arching premise that co-location is the only safe future provision for cancer services. However, this blog adds to the many reasons why the building of a new cancer centre on the Northern Meadows site is wrong by considering the green issues arising in the run up to, and since the COP 26 climate crisis talks in Glasgow last month.
The British Medical Journal has devoted a whole issue to the issues of climate, environment and health1. The NHS in Wales has issued a document published on 22/11/2021 entitled ‘How NHS Wales is responding to the climate emergency’2. Velindre University Trust has contributed to the latter, and we select the following excerpts from Velindre’s series of ‘ambitions for the greenest hospital (sic) in Britain’ to discuss further below.
Velindre University NHS Trust is underpinning its plans … with a list of commitments aiming to make it the greenest hospital in Britain. The trust was granted planning permission … in 2018 and wants to provide patients with a better, more peaceful and restorative healing environment for treatment. … it has looked around the country to inspire its vision for a building which sits comfortably in its landscape.
… Velindre has pledged to keep the Northern Meadows green, which means enhancing community access, supporting the ecological diversity and natural environment of the site … It wants to make the building carbon neutral by using renewable energy and natural resources. It will also protect and conserve water, minimise light pollution, noise impact and the production of waste materials.
So, there you have it – a marvellous piece of ‘greenwashing’ (disinformation disseminated by an organisation so as to present an environmentally responsible public image). The pledges in italics above are not feasible if we actually consider these in detail (and not just because the ‘hospital’ will not be fit to describe as a hospital). That’s because leaving the Northern Meadows intact will leave a far more peaceful, natural environment than adding to the environmental damage that COP26 and the British Medical Journal editorial in our previous blog consider wrong for our planet’s future.
Further, the building of the new cancer centre on and around the site of an already polluted area of Cardiff will have a bad effect on the health of people in the locality, and into the wider Cardiff area. A further piece in a recent British Medical Journal published just ahead of COP26 referenced the damage caused to health by a rise in particulate pollution which echoes the effects of extra infrastructure in an already busy area3. So, the Velindre claim that building a new ‘hospital’ (their word) on a greenfield site will result in limited pollution of any sort can be discounted too.
In summary, we are presented with further blather from Velindre which can be discredited easily in environmental terms with the 21st century medical profession recognising that environmental issues are important in our future world4. These provide further reasons to consider the model to be wrong and perhaps a message back to Velindre adapted from the title of the last reference – please abandon your hubris, politics and see the future through an alternative perspective. Put simply, the Velindre model of a stand-alone cancer centre on the Northern Meadows is the wrong model on the wrong site.
Meantime Wales is planning to plant one tree per household hmmm.
Following on perfectly, we turn to this latest piece of ‘greenwashing’ – this time in relation to the planting of new trees. The Welsh Government decided that trees are good for our health and has given £2million to plant 1.3 million new trees5. Meanwhile they will be felling mature trees on Forest Farm Nature Reserve for a new Cancer Centre, at vast cost, and leaving cancer sufferers at risk because of inadequate services and support that only co-location with a general hospital can bring.
Now, we are all for tree-planting as a means of combatting the climate crisis and the science suggests this is a good thing6, although other work suggests that planting trees does not always help with climate change7; as with our previous piece on COP26 the purpose of the CV group is not to go into environmental issues in too much detail but to consider the health implications of the present Velindre plans.
These plans are now coming to fruition, and as we write this blog, further enabling works are being put into action with tree-felling and clearances starting on the Northern Meadows site itself. So, Welsh Government has decided to continue ignoring our protestations and wise advice and has chosen to commit ongoing funds to a poorly conceived and preposterous plan that damages the environment and will damage our health. As the title suggests there is only one polite response – hmmm.
- Godlee F. A world on the edge of climate disaster. British Medical Journal 2021; 375; n2441
- NHS Confederation; How NHS Wales is responding to the climate emergency, published
- British Medical Journal 2021; 375; n2607 (published 28/10/2021) As cited by Abbasi K.
Memo to COP26 leaders: abandon your hubris, politics and pride and see the future through young people’s eyes.
- Godlee, cited above..
- https://www.bbc.co.uk/uk-wales-59541262 (posted 06/12/2021)