Learning from Green Beacons

In the spring of 2019 Trusts across NHS England were encouraged to join the effort of starting a new walking group in a green space. Of those that applied, eight Mental Health Trusts were chosen as pilot sites which would participate in a three-month assessment period. 

Trusts were chosen to represent a range of rural and urban locations. Committing to arrange one walk per week on an adult inpatient unit, each site was supported to organise its programme independently. Regular assessments focused on understanding the various enablers and barriers to the establishment and maintenance of the new walking groups. 

At the end of the assessment period many interesting themes emerged. Participating sites found walks to be safe, well received and requiring minimal resources. At some sites the walks raised interest within the host Trust, leading to their uptake in other wards. Many of the sites continued the walks after the end of the assessment. 

A significant barrier to the success of a walk was the observed tendency to minimise a walking group’s importance. This reflected a sense that they were non-essential and a general perception that the work of occupational therapists was secondary compared to that of their nursing and medical colleagues. The lack of coordinated care across the multidisciplinary team was reflected in difficulties arranging the leave necessary for those patients detained under the MHA.  

A picture of wards coping with considerable demand was also reflected in frequent staff shortages which contributed to the cancellation of walks. Similarly,   staff who were not directly involved often  felt as though they did not have time to join the walking group. In spite of these pressures, sites felt that walks also afforded an incredible opportunity for wards to allow staff to practice a culture of care and recovery enabled by a shared effort to recognise them as fundamental and integral to good care. 


Green Beacon sites 2019