Joint statement on NHSE’s plan to decommission desflurane by early 2024
Thursday 12 January 2023
The climate emergency is a health emergency, and as such we, the Association of Anaesthetists and the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) are committed to promoting actions that encourage environmental sustainability within anaesthetic practice and amongst our members and fellows.
We welcome the NHS commitment to reach net zero on its direct emissions, including volatile anaesthetics, by 2040. We also support NHS England’s commitment to stop the use of desflurane, an environmentally harmful anaesthetic agent, by early 2024.
This builds on the continued, hard work of anaesthetists, who have already successfully reduced their use of desflurane.
We support the decommissioning of desflurane given the availability of clinically safe, more environmentally friendly, and cost-effective alternatives. We will continue to work with our members and NHS England to capture and accommodate exceptional clinical circumstances that might require a documented exemption.
In addition to this commitment to stop the use of desflurane, we are encouraged by the work being undertaken by Trusts to reduce their nitrous oxide waste. We support NHS England and other governments to commit to further actions that address this issue, such as replacing nitrous oxide manifolds that supply surgical theatres with a limited number of small cylinders on anaesthetic machines.
We look forward to continuing our work with NHS England to deliver this commitment to stop the use of desflurane and reducing the environmental impact of anaesthetic practices.