Environmental aspects of health care in the Grampian NHS region and the place of telehealth

J Telemed Telecare. 2010;16(4):215-20. doi: 10.1258/jtt.2010.004015.


Detailed information about the composition of the carbon footprint of the NHS in the Grampian health region, and in Scotland generally, is not available at present. Based on the limited information available, our best guess is that travel emissions in Grampian are substantial, perhaps 49,000 tonnes CO(2) per year. This is equivalent to 233 million km of car travel per year. A well-established telemedicine network in the Grampian region, which saves over 2000 patient journeys a year from community hospitals, avoids about 260,000 km travel per year, or about 59 tonnes CO(2) per year. Therefore using telehealth as it has been used historically (primarily to facilitate hospital-to-hospital interactions) seems unlikely to have a major environmental impact--although of course there may be other good reasons for persevering with conventional telehealth. On the other hand, telehealth might be useful in reducing staff travel and to a lesser extent, visitor travel. It looks particularly promising for reducing outpatient travel, where substantial carbon savings might be made by reconfiguring the way that certain services are provided.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants
  • Air Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Environmental Health*
  • Humans
  • Scotland
  • State Medicine
  • Telemedicine*
  • Travel
  • Vehicle Emissions / prevention & control*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Carbon Dioxide