Getting staff to turn off lights could save the NHS £35m

Simply encouraging employees in the National Health Service to turn off lights and close doors could save the taxpayer £35 million annually, an expert in behavioural change has claimed.


Chris Large of environmental consultancy Global Action Plan told the Smart Lighting Control conference that his organisation is already saving the NHS £1.2 million every year with its pilot TLC programme (Turn off Lights and Close doors) at the two hospitals run by the Barts Health Trust in London.

TLC is based on social science and uses psychology to make a cultural change among employees. ‘We know that if we go into an organisation and just bang the green drum we won’t get anywhere,’ Large told the London audience. ‘Instead we look at people’s own motivations.’

Among hospital staff they discovered that the patient is the priority, next are people, then the planet and finally saving the NHS money. ‘So we said we’re asking you to do things differently because it will help your patients have a better experience’.

Large and his team made heroes of individuals who were already using good practice. ‘This policy was based on what we call social norming. If people I know are doing it, then I can too’, said Large. They also got ‘permission’ from hospital chiefs for nurses and others to ‘control the space’ on their wards. The approach worked; lights were turned off at night, doors were closed and one in three patients reported less sleep disruption. Large says the programme and ones like it could help big organisations all over the UK to make significant savings and cut carbon emissions.