By Daniel Martin
Going green: Patients may have to go without meat as producing it involves a high amount of emissions
Patients should phone their GP rather than drive in for a visit, according to National Health Service guidelines unveiled today.
Ministers want family doctors to hold more ‘phone-in’ surgeries to help the environment by cutting carbon emissions from cars.
They also want hospitals to achieve their green targets by reducing the amount of meat they serve to patients in wards.
Patient groups said the ‘telemedicine’ plans were fraught with danger because a misdiagnosis over the phone could lead to incorrect treatment and even death.
The Government says action is needed because the NHS is responsible for a quarter of all the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the public sector.
It produces 18million tons of the gas linked to global warming every a year – 3.2 per cent of the total for the whole of Britain.
The strategy commits the NHS to reducing its 2007 emissions by 10 per cent by 2015, and by 80 per cent by 2050.
But Michael Summers, of the Patients Association, said: ‘I believe this is fraught with danger, and many GPs see it as a dangerous practice.
‘There are cases of patients having died after being misdiagnosed over the phone.
‘Speaking to your GP over the phone can be reassuring in non-urgent cases – but how can a GP know if it’s urgent or not without seeing them?
Mark Wallace, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘People will be suspicious that yet again the environment is being used as an excuse to give a worse service.’
Critics warned that patients need the protein and iron in meat to help them regain their strength after an operation.