PM2.5 levels exceeded at one in four England hospitals

One in four hospitals in England are in areas that exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended levels of particulate matter (PM2.5), research has found.

These were the findings of a British Lung Foundation and UK100 study which analysed the location of 484 NHS trusts in England with air pollution data.

The World Health Organisation gives a guideline of 10μg/m3 for an annual average of PM2.5.

Lowestoft Hospital in Suffolk fared the worst, according to the analysis, with average annual levels of 16.18μg/m3.

London is the worst region affected with 72% of hospitals breaching guidelines. 36% of hospitals in the East Midlands are above limits, and nearly a third (32.5%) in the East of England.

Birmingham, Leeds, Leicester, London, Nottingham, Hull, Chelmsford and Southampton have at least one large NHS trust that is located in an area with unsafe levels of pollution, according to the study.

It also found that smaller towns such as Ipswich, Westcliff-on-Sea, Gillingham, Worthing, Kettering, Basingstoke and Colchester, are also exceeding limits.

UK100, which is a network of local government leaders, reported earlier this year that one in three NHS patients in England is registered at a GP practice that exceeds the WHO annual limit for PM2.5 air pollution.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: ‘Air pollution causes thousands of avoidable hospital admissions and early deaths every year, and affects more than 2,000 GP surgeries and hospitals.

‘That is why the NHS is committed to playing our part – cutting emissions from the NHS fleet by 20% by 2024, cutting our reliance on fossil fuels for power, and reforming services to reduce the number of visits that people need to make to hospital.

‘But although the NHS can take practical steps to reduce our impact on the environment, as well as treating those suffering the consequences of poor air, we can’t win this fight alone, so the growing consensus on the need for wider action across society is welcome.’

A government spokesperson added: ‘Our £3.5bn Clean Air Strategy – praised by the World Health Organization as “an example for the rest of the world to follow” – is the most ambitious air quality strategy in a generation and aims to address all sources of particulate matter, including those from transport.

UK100 is calling on the government to adopt WHO legal limits for PM2.5, which the WHO believes could reduce pollution-related deaths in the UK by around 15%.

In one of his final acts as Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said the upcoming Environment Bill will enshrine World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for particulate matter in UK law.

Earlier this year, the first-ever Clean Air Hospital Framework (CAHF) was launched by the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH) and Global Action Plan.

The strategy is aimed at improving air quality in and around hospitals in order to create a healthier environment for patients and their families, staff, and the local community.

Larissa Lockward from Global Action Plan and Nick Martin from Great Ormond Street Hospital will be discussing the framework at the AirQualityNews National Air Quality Conference which will take place on November 12 at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

Photo Credit – Pixabay