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Environmental sustainability in general practice (EPOSTER: 4mins)

Presentation Description

Background: The black summer bushfires put climate change front of mind for many Australians. Healthcare is a carbon intensive industry and accounts for 7% of Australia's carbon footprint. In 2019, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners released a position statement calling on general practice to reduce its emissions. Despite this, few practices have taken steps to improve their environmental sustainability.

Method: The aim of this study is to explore facilitators and barriers to environmental sustainability in three general practices aspiring to improve their environmental impact. We are using a qualitative, case study approach, conducting interviews with staff at each practice including nurses, doctors, administrative and allied health staff. Ethnographic observation of day-to-day routines and practices that relate to environmental sustainability will also be undertaken where permitted by COVID 19. Twelve interviews and an observation of the first practice have been completed and analysed using thematic analysis. Interviews are ongoing for the second and third practices.

Results: Important facilitators identified so far include concomitant financial or efficiency benefits, leadership open to change, and a systematic approach to implementing and sustaining environmentally-friendly changes. Barriers identified include a lack of knowledge of environmentally sustainable products and services available, and a lack of time.

Discussion: A key finding to date is that environmentally sustainable change is more likely to occur if there are additional benefits, for example, cost savings over the long-term. Another preliminary finding is that having a reputation as an environmentally friendly practice is not a major motivation to change. Changes weren't made with a view to attract patients or staff to the practice.

Implications for practice: Identifying key facilitators and barriers will allow effective targeting of policies to improve environmental sustainability in general practice and enable sharing of successful strategies across the general practice community.