Scotland has become the first part of the UK to stop using an anaesthetic gas in the NHS which has a global warming potential 2,500 times greater than carbon dioxide.

Desflurane is used as an anaesthetic during surgery and removing it from use in operating theatres across NHS Scotland has the potential to save emissions equivalent to powering 1,700 homes every year, the Scottish Government said.

The work has been led by NHS staff, who have moved away from using desflurane to clinically-appropriate and safe alternatives that have less impact on the environment.

It is the first action of the Scottish Government’s national green theatres programme, which is due to be formally launched in the spring to identify areas where operating theatres can become more environmentally friendly.

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf welcomed the move (PA)

Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “I am immensely proud that we have become the first nation in the UK to stop using environmentally harmful anaesthetics in our NHS.

“Programmes like this are key to our transition to become a net-zero health service, whilst ensuring patient safety remains at the heart of every clinical decision.”

Kenneth Barker, clinical lead for the programme, said: “Theatres are high carbon and energy intensive areas that produce high volumes of waste, so reducing the environmental impact of theatres will make a positive difference towards achieving Scotland’s net-zero targets.

“NHS Scotland has assigned an ambitious target to be net-zero for anaesthetic gases by 2027, and removal of desflurane is just the first step towards this.

“We are delighted to work with clinical teams across Scotland and specialists in national procurement to make this happen before the green theatres programme fully gets under way.

“Our patients always comes first but it’s great that we are now making clinically safe patient care decisions with sustainability in mind.”