Creating a national movement on sustainable prescribing


Healthcare leaders from across Scotland have issued a rallying call for bold action to reduce the environmental impact caused by medicine prescribing. 

Medicines account for around 25% of carbon emissions in the NHS. If Scotland is to achieve net-zero, strategies for reducing carbon emissions from prescribing and medicines need to be tackled. Medicines also have an ecological impact when they get into our waste water system and are discharged into our rivers and oceans.

To ensure that prescribing is made more environmentally sustainable, the bodies representing healthcare professionals who prescribe have issued a joint statement calling for wide ranging action to be taken, by policy makers, education providers, NHS leaders and the pharmaceutical industry.

Read our full press release here.

Joint statement on reducing the environmental impact of prescribing and medicines use


This joint statement was developed following a round table meeting of Royal Colleges and professional leadership bodies of prescribers, held on 31 March 2022. The virtual meeting brought together a range of senior representatives, enabling an extensive range of ideas to be generated. Following detailed discussions, the round table converged on the actions in this statement.

Our commitment

As professional leadership bodies in Scotland for prescribers, we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of prescribing and medicines use.

Our actions

  1. We will educate and influence our professions, the public and policymakers about how to make medicines use more environmentally sustainable
  2. We will encourage our professions to take a Realistic Medicine approach to prescribing by involving patients in prescribing decisions and reducing unnecessary prescribing
  3. We will encourage and promote the increasing use of green social prescribing initiatives, which links people with nature-based interventions and activities.

What we call for

  1. We call on policy makers to enable a more sustainable approach to prescribing. This includes prioritising the introduction of electronic prescribing across the NHS, introducing the requirement for an environmental impact in NHS medicines procurement and improving the availability of data about the environmental impact of medicines
  2. We call on Scottish Government, including the Chief Medical Officer, to enable the delivery of a Realistic Medicine approach to prescribing by developing a supportive infrastructure for green social prescribing across Scotland
  3. We call on the pharmaceutical industry to make information about the environmental impact of medicines readily available in a standardised data format
  4. We call on the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) and the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) to make information about the environmental impact of medicines available in their guidelines
  5. We call on education providers to support prescribers by including environmental sustainability in education and training for health professionals
  6. We call for fresh thinking and innovation within the NHS and NHS suppliers in areas such as reducing medicines waste, reducing the use of paper, plastics and unnecessary packaging, and increasing recycling.

Download a PDF version of the joint statement.

Our policy on Pharmacy’s role in Climate action and sustainable healthcare

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is committed to tackling the climate and ecological emergency.  In September 2021, we formally recognised the scale and importance of the situation by publishing a climate declaration. Climate change is the most significant health threat modern society has ever faced: it affects clean air, safe drinking water, food and shelter. Combine this with the increasing demand for health services and the fact that medicines are the most common intervention in healthcare, and the role for pharmacy is clear. Medicines account for about 25% of carbon emissions within the NHS.

This policy deliberately focuses on reducing the environmental harm from medicines, rather than the wider climate and ecological emergency. As experts in medicines, pharmacists have a professional responsibility to take a leading role in reducing the environmental impact of medicines use.

Read our policy in full.

Climate Change Charter

Climate change is the most significant health threat modern society has ever faced. You can start your sustainability journey and show your personal commitment by following our Climate Change Charter.

Case studies, blogs and resources

You can find all of our case studies, blogs and resources, here.