NHS could save £100m by taking to the stairs, new research finds

NHS hospitals across England could save more than £100 million a year and significantly reduce their carbon footprint simply by encouraging staff to use the stairs.

The savings would be achieved if just 15% of England’s 350,000 NHS hospital nurses stopped using hospital lifts and used the stairs instead.

The analysis by StepJockey - a Department of Health seed-funded start-up - uses high quality energy and time saving data from published studies to calculate the gains, which include:

  • reduced lift energy consumption

  • staff time saved

  • improved staff wellness and absence

The savings could make significant inroads into the £2 billion deficit NHS trusts are expected to have by the end of the 2015/16 financial year.

Last September, NHS England's Chief Executive Simon Stevens repeated calls for hospital CEOs to invest in staff wellness, pointing out that NHS absence costs a massive £2.4bn a year.

Mr Stevens told hospital bosses: "NHS staff have some of the most critical but demanding jobs in the country,” and "when it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly the NHS needs to put its own house in order."

A recent report by The Health Foundation also highlighted room to improve efficiency in the NHS by nudging individuals to make healthier, more efficient choices, without resorting to so-called ‘Nanny State’ interventions.

The NHS, like all major employers, also has challenging targets on energy savings and carbon emissions. The research, using the  Carbon Trust’s Empower energy savings calculator, shows increased stair use would save nearly 25 tonnes of CO2 saved over five years.

Huntsville Hospital Health System - the third largest hospital group in the US - has already increased staff engagement with their health by implementing StepJockey Smart Signs and Challenges.

Helen Nuki, a behavioural economist and co-founder of StepJockey, said: “Sometimes it is the simplest of changes that can make a difference. A switch to the stairs would not just generate significant time, health and energy savings for the NHS, but would free-up hospital lifts for patients who most need them.

“It is the scale of the NHS and its centrally run property portfolio that make these significant savings not just possible but very much achievable”.

More information and a detailed breakdown of the analysis is available on the StepJockey blog.


Notes to editors

Please see our attached infographic for a simple version of our analysis.

How the savings break down in the StepJockey analysis:

Savings generated per year for all NHS Hospitals in England

Efficiency (time) savings1


Sickness savings2


Energy savings3


Total gross savings


Five-year carbon savings

24,938 kg CO2

  1. Research in the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that nurses using the stairs and ditching the lift will benefit from a 3% time saving per day.

  1. PWC research shows sick days cost UK business nearly £23 billion a year and, on average, sickness absence costs employers 8 working days per employee per year. The analysis assumes just 25% of this benefit.

  1. For every 10 employees substituting the lift for the stairs, a hospital could expect to save £7 per year on its energy bills according to the Carbon Trust.

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About StepJockey

StepJockey is a Department of Health seed-funded startup.

StepJockey uses evidence-based Smart signs, a mobile app and digital gamification to encourage stair use and build greater physical activity seamlessly into people’s working lives.

StepJockey typically sees a 500% increase in stair use when implementing its stair prompts alongside its Challenge platform.

Read about the health benefits of stair climbing and the evidence-base for using stair prompts.