OHBP’s case study with the Alliance for Water Stewardship

The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) published the Caithness General Hospital case study in April 2021. This reflects on the achievement of the hospital becoming the first in the world to achieve the AWS certification, and demonstrates the relevance of water stewardship and sustainability to NHS Highland.

The AWS Standard is the global benchmark for environmentally and socially responsible water usage (‘stewardship’). It was developed to drive the use of water that is socially and culturally equitable, environmentally sustainable, and economically beneficial. Those who have achieved this status are guided through practical ways to improve site water performance and contribute to wider sustainability goals – through a framework with stakeholder inclusive and site-specific and catchment-based actions.

Through the OHBP, NHS Highland, the Environmental Research Institute (ERI), and Highlands and Islands Enterprise developed a pilot study to assess water use and pharmaceuticals in wastewater from Caithness General Hospital, a rural hospital in Wick, Highlands. This work assessed pharmaceutical loads in the hospital discharge, and the efficiency of water use within the hospital. It identified that the hospital produces wastewater with significant levels of pharmaceuticals in it, and that the municipal wastewater treatment plant was unable to effectively removal all compounds from the final effluent.

You can read more about the research carried out for the Caithness General Hospital pilot project on our Projects page here, and in the research article in Science of the Total Environment (link).

This case study recognises NHS Highland’s commitment to:

Reduce pharmaceutical wastage & environmental impact of healthcare – including “greening” the prescription formulary, developing public messaging, and conducting a waste amnesty scheme for expired/unwanted medicines.

Enhance water quality – NHS Highland drew up a water action plan that will save 33% of water and sewerage costs, generating shared value to Scottish Water in decreased energy use and carbon footprint, and reduced costs to society by decreasing anti-microbial resistance, reducing contamination of the food chain, and mitigating climate change effects on water.

Promote partnership working through the OHBP to address shared water-related challenges.

As this case study was successful, the OHBP are looking to roll out this approach at hospitals across Scotland, as encouraged by the Scottish Parliament, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman. The OHBP is also working with AWS to make this accreditation more attainable for hospitals and healthcare agencies around the world, especially in low and middle income countries.

You can read more about the Alliance for Water Stewardship award through this link.