The NHS in England should increasingly make services available remotely to slow the impact of climate change on health, the Chief Medical Officer has recommended.

In his final annual report as CMO, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson identifies climate change as a key area of action for public health.

Sir Liam argues that communications technology could allow many more consultations to take place remotely. He argues this would mean less travel by staff and patients, deliver more coordinated care closer to home and make better use of specialist care.

He adds: “The NHS deals well with emergencies that present an immediate threat to human life. It must prove itself equally capable of dealing with climate change – a slow burning yet immense threat to human health.”

Sir Liam also calls for the NHS to make energy efficiency savings and argues that providing more personalised knowledge online would promote better self care and support carers in the community.

In his introduction to the report, Sir Liam highlights the flu pandemic as one of the biggest challenges of 2009. 

He says the National Pandemic Flu Service was an “entirely novel concept for the country” which was well used and relieved significant pressure on the mainstream NHS.

Sir Liam’s report identifies four other key areas for action on public health: making improvements in physical inactivity; tackling the impact of severe winter weather; tackling rare diseases; and capitalising on the impact grandparents can make on children’s health.

Sir Liam is due to retire as CMO in the summer, having stayed on a year longer than planned because of the flu pandemic. A successor has yet to be announced.

Link: On the State of the Public Health.