Jim Thomas, Head of Logistics at Sussex Community NHS Trust, talks to Fleet Manager about the trust’s innovative and proactive approach to tackling grey fleet and their ongoing dedication to reducing carbon...
Describe your role and responsibilities as Head of Logistics for Sussex Community NHS Trust (SCT).
I’m responsible for our Fleet, Transport and Travel operations – these include around 430 vehicles, a network of medical couriers covering East and West Sussex, healthy transport/active travel and, as a recent addition, our grey fleet.
You have taken a number of steps in recent years to reduce your owned and leased fleet emissions as well as your grey fleet mileage. What prompted you to do this and how has this been achieved?
As the largest Community Trust in the South of England we carry out around 8,000 patient interventions a day, the majority of which are in patients’ homes. Travel is therefore an essential part of our daily work - in 2012/13 we racked up almost six million business miles at a cost of £3 million to the organisation.
To address this we created a Business Travel Plan which outlined the process and resources needed to tackle this huge financial and environmental cost. It starts with the basics such as the travel hierarchy but drills down to the detailed initiatives that we intended introducing and how these were to be implemented and communicated at all levels of the organisation.
As a result of this we have managed to shave nearly a million miles from our business mileage in 2013/14 – 949,500 (16.7%) - without impacting on the high quality care that the Trust provides.
We’re also dedicated to reducing our owned and leased carbon emissions to ensure that we are operating the cleanest fleet that our budgets permit. We’ve replaced our diesel cars with 3-cylinder petrol variants and we’ve rewritten our lease car policy to include an upper carbon limit (140 g/km in 2012, now 130g/km) with incentivised rates available for vehicles under 100 g/km. We’ve achieved an absolute carbon reduction across the whole fleet of 19% since 2011/12 and our average carbon emissions per vehicle – including our commercial vehicles – is now only 121.9 g/km.
What specific travel initiatives have been put in place?
In 2012 we launched our Travel Bureau, which is a one-stop shop to assist staff and managers to travel less or travel smarter. This provides access to low emission pool vehicles along with route planning for clinical and operational teams, information on and booking of public transport options, local maps, tele/video-conferencing and many other opportunities.We’ve also added to our portfolio of staff benefits including tax-free bicycles and interest-free season ticket loans; these enable our colleagues to travel to work in more sustainable ways and make use of Trust vehicles during their working day instead of their own cars.
In 2014 we ran our first “Spring Into Action” campaign which included a Trust-wide Travel Survey along with a series of local and national events for walking and cycling. Many of the responses to the survey were key to helping us identify new ways in which to support our colleagues, including assistance with season ticket purchases and improvements to cycle access and facilities at some of our bases.
Explain how SCT is working with different partners to reduce Carbon?
For many years we’ve worked alongside our NHS partners to generate cost and carbon savings using our specialist knowledge of fleet and transport operations. We provide vehicles to five NHS Trusts and courier services to six, along with some local authorities and private organisations.
We been very lucky to have considerable support from Brighton and Hove City Council through their sustainability and local air quality funding – this has enabled us to invest in electric vehicles and facilities for cyclists. We have also just been provided with cycle racks for a number of our community hospitals by West Sussex County Council.
We have also introduced a comprehensive, award-winning sustainable healthcare strategy called Care Without Carbon, with support from Capita Health Partners.
Tell us more about the Care Without Carbon strategy and what it means for your organisation.
Care Without Carbon is the name of Sussex Community NHS Trust’s sustainable healthcare strategy. It was developed in 2014 and builds on work we’ve been undertaking since 2010 to reduce the environmental impact of our operations. It is built around a unique seven step model for delivering sustainable healthcare services – Journeys (encompassing staff travel as well as fleet and transport operations) is one of these steps. It charts a new trajectory for further reducing the carbon footprint of the Trust, with an interim target of 34% by 2020 and long term aspiration to become a carbon neutral healthcare provider.
Does SCT have any accreditations or awards relating to fleet or carbon reduction?
We were delighted to be awarded the runners-up prize at the Energy Savings Trust’s Fleet Heroes awards last year for the reduction we’d achieved on Grey Fleet mileage.
The Trust has also won awards for its overall work on sustainability – including transport and travel along with energy, waste and other themes. These have included the Health Service Journal Good Corporate Citizenship Award (2011), IHEEM National Sustainable
Achievement Award (2014) and three NHS Sustainability Day awards (2015).
Do you operate any Electric Vehicles?
We have three so far – a courier van, a car and a bicycle! The bicycle is issued to one of our Speech and Language Therapists - she avoids all the urban traffic and parking problems that her colleagues suffer each day whilst seeing the same number of service users. This is proving very popular with our service users and we’ll be adding to our two-wheeled fleet imminently.
If yes, what sort of charging infrastructure is in place?
We have two dedicated vehicle charging points at our head office in Brighton, which are available to staff to use during working hours, and we’re working with our NHS partners to establish opportunities elsewhere in Sussex.
How have the electric vehicles been funded?
We’ve been very fortunate to have some financial support for one of the charging points and the electric bicycle from Brighton and Hove City Council. We funded the car (Nissan Leaf) and van (Renault Kangoo) ourselves from prospective savings. All the vehicles, including the bicycle, are leased so we can take advantage of new technologies as they come available.
What other types of vehicles do you have on the Trust fleet?
The majority of our fleet vehicles are cars; these take our clinical and operational staff between sites and to patients’ homes. Within our pool fleet we have 15 hybrids so far, with more on the way. We operate commercial vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes at the moment, although we’re used to running 7.5 tonnes for certain contracts. And we occasionally have specialist vehicles – one of our most unusual recently has been a mobile dental surgery.
How much does technology affect your role?
This is a huge part of what we do: although we regularly use route planning to reconfigure our couriers we’ve recently extended this to our clinical and operational colleagues. This is especially useful for staff who may not be fully familiar with a particular area – we can help plan their route to maximise the number of patients they can reach in a day.
All our courier vehicles are tracked so we can divert the nearest vehicle at any given point to meet any urgent needs. We’ve applied the same to many of our pool cars so we can ensure that they’re in regular use and achieving the mileages we need to break even against grey fleet use.
Do you operate any driver training inititaives?
We’ve taken advantage of the Energy Savings Trust’s Eco Driving initiative several times in recent years, not just for our professional drivers but also those who just need a car to carry out their work. On the last occasion we worked with Brighton and Hove City Council to include members of the public too. This has been very popular and we’ve seen some amazing fuel efficiency savings – even from people who thought they were already pretty good!