Head in the sand, or Line in the Sand...health systems and health professionals’ contribution to a safe, fair and sustainable future

Dr David Pencheon OBE is the founder Director of the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) for NHS England and Public Health England (www.sduhealth.org.uk). The SDU was established in 2007 with the task of ensuring the NHS operated in an environmentally sustainable way – starting with reducing its carbon emissions. Whether by coincidence or by causation, between 2007 and 2015 the NHS reduced its carbon emissions by 11% – exceeding the 10% target set in 2009, and despite health and care activity increasing by 18%. This represents a saving of £1.85bn, and more broadly, the first steps in a transition towards a sustainable and resilient health and care system.

David was previously Director of the Public Health Observatory in Cambridge from 2001 to 2007. He has worked as a clinical doctor in the NHS, a joint Director of Public Health, a Public Health Training Director, with the NHS R&D programme, and in rural China in the early 1990s with Save the Children Fund (UK).