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Dr Elaine Winkley pioneers ‘Waste Warriors’ project as part of the HLA Programme

A Northumbria doctor has succeeded in improving sustainability at Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust with the launch of a pioneering Waste Warrior Project.

The initiative – researched and implemented by former Newcastle Medical School student Dr Elaine Winkley – has helped the Trust gain an environmental accreditation.

Elaine carried out the environmental project as part of the Healthcare Leadership Academy (HLA) programme – a prestigious scholarship set up to develop and nurture healthcare leaders of the future.

During the year long programme scholars choose a project with a social aim to research, plan and enact. For Elaine her vision was to implement change to help the NHS become greener and more sustainable.

In her research, Elaine discovered that approximately 600,000 tonnes of waste are generated by the NHS every year. She felt this level of waste conflicts with the responsibility of a clinician to “do no harm”.

To initiate change, Elaine worked with many different teams, both clinical and non-clinical. She discovered that the sustainability initiatives conducted by managers had been focused on the non-clinical areas of the trust, without realising how much progress could be made in the clinical domain.

Knowing that support of those responsible for the practical waste segregation and recycling was vital to the campaign’s success, Elaine involved and motivated patient facing staff. Using social media platforms for outreach, she was able to work with staff to find practical solutions and produce real change.

One of the earliest successes of the campaign was introducing a recycling bin to a coffee room. By taking a small step forward, many more changes followed, with individuals motivated to initiate change and engage in a common goal. As a result of the commitment to sustainability, the Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust has now been awarded the highest level of Accreditation by the Investors for the Environment (iiE).

Elaine has also been appointed the Clinical Lead for Sustainability in her organisation and is the Chair of the Faculty of Sustainable Healthcare Health Education England NE.

“I want to ensure the impact of healthcare today doesn’t destroy the planet for future generations. We need to make the NHS Net Zero, as the Climate Emergency is a Healthcare Emergency. By educating clinicians and health care workers on the impact healthcare has on global warming and planetary harm they can be empowered to make greener decisions and adjust clinical practice to be beneficial to the patients of today and tomorrow.” Elaine Winkley, talking about the aims for the future.

The Healthcare Leadership Academy (HLA) formed 2016 in response to demand from young clinicians and medical students to learn about leadership. The aim of the programme is to inspire the next generation of healthcare professionals and develop their understanding of leadership.

Scholars are expected to develop a community project like the Waste Warrior Campaign over the course of the one-year programme, with previous projects having reached national prominence, winning prizes, publications and presentations at national events including at the House of Lords.

“We are incredibly proud of what Elaine has achieved. She chose an important project and through her hard work she has created real change, contributing to a sustainable NHS which will continue to improve. She’s a credit to our community.” George Miller – Director General at the HLA

To find out more about Elaine’s story visit: https:

Clinicians across the North East are being invited to apply for the next cohort of the Healthcare Leadership Academy (HLA) programme 2022 / 2023 . For more information or to apply visit

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