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11th June 2024

Health leaders appeal to party candidates to prioritise the environment, health, and health and care services

More than 30 health leaders from across the UK have written to candidates across all political parties expressing their deep concern about the impact the climate and ecological emergency is having, and will continue to have, on health and the health service.

The health professionals say they are already seeing first hand the damaging consequences of heatwaves, air pollution, poor diets and lack of access to nature and that the health impacts are being seen at every stage of life, from increasing risk of pregnancy complications, more children suffering respiratory conditions, and more people over the age of 65 suffering strokes. They warn extreme weather is also adding additional pressure to our already stretched health service with overheating, flooding, and wildfires all resulting in infrastructure damage, disruption and cancellation of vital health services.

The group represents health experts across multiple professions, including doctors, surgeons, nurses, paramedics, psychiatrists, paediatricians, pharmacologists, and many others, who are members of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change.

In the letter, they say to candidates, “The next government of the UK will be leading at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history when we need to transform our energy system, our food system, our health system, and our infrastructure to deliver a better, fairer and healthier society resilient to the threats of climate change.” 

They present five priorities for the next government to protect health and appeal to candidates to commit to do all in their power, if elected, to sustain our environment, health and health and care services. These are:

End fossil fuel dependency: By delivering a rapid, just transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy combined with policies that reduce energy demand

Ensure a healthy environment: By delivering energy-efficient housing, improved public transport, access to active travel and green and blue spaces

Transform the food system: By raising awareness and availability of healthy, nutritious plant-based food combined with support for farmers to transition to sustainable practices

Meet international commitments: By delivering global financial commitments and developing ways to increase financial investments to support climate and ecological action

Transform health and care services: By investing in health and care services, infrastructure, and human resources to enable change

Richard Smith, Chair of the UKHACC: “António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, warned this week that pulling back from the brink of climate catastrophe ‘all depends on decisions taken by political leaders during this decade and especially in the next 18 months.’ Yet we are hearing little on climate change in the election. We call on political leaders to respond to the harm already being done to health from the climate and nature crisis.”

Dr Helena Clements, Officer for Climate Change at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: “As paediatricians, we constantly advocate for children’s health and wellbeing, but we also have a responsibility to address the impact of climate change which poses and existential threat to children and young people. 

“The upcoming general election is happening at a crucial moment for children and our planet. Climate change is no longer tomorrow’s problem, it’s today’s. We urgently need bold action and strong commitments from all political parties when it comes to tackling this crisis and protecting our planet.”