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2nd August 2023

Health leaders call on Prime Minister to withdraw oil and gas licences

Members of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change have written to the PM calling for a withdrawal of new licences for North Sea oil and gas.

Dear Prime Minister, 

We write to you as an alliance of health leaders deeply concerned about the impact that climate change and nature loss are having on human health and to urge you to withdraw the decision to issue new licences for North Sea oil and gas.

Health workers are already seeing the consequences of ill health caused by high temperatures, extreme weather and pollution. For example, more than 3000 excess deaths were recorded in England and Wales during the heatwaves between June and August 2022 [1], and without adequate action heat-related deaths are expected to rise to about 7000 a year by the 2050s [2]. 

We are worried about climate change and the implications for our patients and the NHS. We know that others share our concern – climate change is the second biggest concern facing adults in the UK (74%), the rising cost of living being the main concern (79%) [3].

Ongoing investment and new licences for oil and gas are not the solution and undoes decades of UK leadership on climate change just when true commitment cannot be delayed. Instead, the government should focus on delivering its commitments to transition to renewable energy with a credible strategy for decarbonising electricity supply with increasing production of onshore wind and solar.

Instead of issuing new licences for fossil fuels, an ambitious programme of retrofitting, insulation and clean heat generation in all homes and public buildings can reduce fuel consumption and cost. As well as cutting greenhouse gas emissions, such actions create jobs, improve health, and if done in the right way through targeted subsidies can help alleviate poverty and the number of people using the social security system. A just transition away from fossil fuels will also improve the UK’s national energy security. 

The contrary approach of expanding UK reliance on domestic production of gas and oil will take a decade or more to deliver and do nothing to alleviate fuel poverty. It will further exacerbate the climate and ecological crises, and amplify public concerns regarding these. 


Dr Richard Smith CBE FMedSci, Chair UK Health Alliance on Climate Change

Elaine Mulcahy, Director UK Health Alliance on Climate Change

Dr Sarah Clarke, President, Royal College of Physicians

Dr Camilla Kingdon, President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

Dr Lade Smith CBE, President, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Dr Ranee Thakar, President, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Dr Fiona Donald, President, Royal College of Anaesthetists

Mr Michael J McKirdy, President, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

Dr Adrian Boyle, President, Royal College of Emergency Medicine

Mr Tim Mitchell, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England

Professor Kevin Fenton, President, Faculty of Public Health

Dr Flic Gabbay, President, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine

Professor Claire Anderson, President, Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Dr Kamran Abbasi, Editor in Chief, BMJ

Dr Richard Horton, Editor-in-chief, The Lancet

Dr Latifa Patel, Chair of Representative Body, British Medical Association

Dr Shireen Kassam Consultant Haematologist and Founder of Plant-Based Health Professionals UK

Professor Mike Wang, Chair, Association of Clinical Psychologists UK

Patricia McCready RN, Financial Director of British Association of Critical Care Nurses 

Rachel Armitage, Managing Director, RCNi, Nursing Standard

Professor Gillian Mead, President, British and Irish Association of Stroke Physicians

Dr Bethan Davies, Sustainability Lead, British and Irish Association of Stroke Physicians

Katrina Davies, Director Greener Practice CIC

Garry Waltham, CEO Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health

Dr Sandy Mather, Chief Executive, Intensive Care Society

Dr Matthew Davies, President, Association of Anaesthetists

Dr Eleanor Damm, Co-Chair Environmental Sustainability Workgroup, Intensive Care Society UK

Dr Jan Coebergh, President of Sustainability interest Group, Association of British Neurologists

Professor Mike Tipton, Chair of the Policy Committee, The Physiological Society

Professor Kamila Hawthorne MBE, Chair of Council, RCGP.

1 Office for National Statistics. Excess mortality during heat periods: 1 June to 31 August 2022. 

2 UK Parliament. Heat-related deaths set to treble by 2050 unless Govt acts. 26 Jul 2018.

3 Office for National Statistics. Worries about climate change, Great Britain: September to October 2022. 28 Oct 2022.