The far north’s main hospital is the first in the world to work towards a prestigious environmental standard.
Caithness General, in Wick, has been given the Alliance of Water Stewardship standard for reducing the amount of pollution from waste medicines.
In the UK, around £300million worth of dispensed medicines go unused and are ultimately discarded, often flushed down the toilet.
In addition, it is estimated that between 30% and 90% of all medicines taken orally end up back in the waste water system.
NHS Highland public health consultants are designing a leaflet which will encourage clinicians to prescribe medicines which are more environmentally friendly.
There will also be investigations to look at ways to capture and remove pollutants from the water supply.
The project has involved carrying out an in-depth analysis of changes in the quality of water from its source, Loch Calder, to Caithness General Hospital and onwards to the local wastewater treatment plant.
NHS Highland’s environmental and sustainability manager John Burnside said: “This award is a clear indication of the board’s desire to be at the forefront of environmental sustainability.
“This project has enabled Caithness General Hospital to lead the way in reducing the impact the medicines we prescribe can have on the environment. We have a strong economic and social responsibility to the communities we serve and it is vitally important we reduce our carbon footprint.
“We are delighted that Caithness General Hospital is the first hospital in the world, and the only site of any kind in the UK, to be recognised with the Alliance of Water Stewardship standard.”