Green Space for Health
One of our key areas of expertise is the interface between green space and health, from programmes on the ground to strategic work at national level. In relation to the four principles of sustainable healthcare, the natural environment contributes to the prevention of illness by increasing physical and mental wellbeing and offers people therapeutic benefits for recovery.
The NHS Forest
The flagship project in our Green Space for Health programme is the NHS Forest, an alliance of health sites working to transform their green space to realise its full potential for health, wellbeing and biodiversity, and to encourage engagement with nature.
The NHS Forest started life as a tree planting project in 2009. Since then, around 300 healthcare sites across the UK have joined our alliance, and almost 100,000 trees have been planted on or near to their estates. But like all forests, the NHS Forest comprises far more than just trees. Our sites have established a wide range of green spaces on and around their land, which offer multiple benefits to the people and wildlife that inhabit and visit them.
Thanks to the government’s Trees Call to Action Fund and other donors, we have thousands of trees to give away for the next tree planting season. If your NHS site would like to plant trees do get in touch to request trees and share your plans with us on firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are not an NHS site, or you are an NHS site that wants to contribute to the number of trees we have available to donate each year, you can sponsor a tree for the NHS Forest.
Better green space for health sites
With the help of our NHS Forest sites we are working to improve the quality and use of green space for patients, staff and the wider community. This can mean beautiful therapeutic gardens for rest and recovery, productive allotments and orchards, woodland walkways, secluded gardens for health staff, and much more. Natural environments have enormous benefits for wellbeing as evidenced by many studies. Hospital patients who have a view of trees from their window have been shown to recover more quickly and to need fewer painkillers than similar patients who can’t see trees from their beds. We aim to make green space an accepted part of mainstream healthcare.
Green Space for Health projects
We launched our pilot Nature Recovery Ranger programme at healthcare sites in three cities in spring 2021. Within just a few months, the presence of dedicated rangers made a substantial difference to hospital life. As well as quickly introducing new green space initiatives of their own, they have substantially enhanced the impact of existing nature projects. The project has now been extended to five sites across England.
We have worked with Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in West London, to take treatment outdoors, The refurbishment of the Fern Garden adjacent to their chemotherapy suite has enabled patients and their visitors to spend time surrounded by greenery while awaiting treatment, to have consultations outdoors, and potentially to receive chemotherapy treatment in the bespoke wooden shelter.
With support from the Health Foundation, we carried out research that explores the value of green space at health sites for combatting staff stress and supporting workplace wellbeing. Our Space to Breathe report identifies the benefits and barriers experienced by staff and puts forward recommendations for good practice at sites across the NHS.
We were partners in Bee Healthy, an Oxfordshire project which helped GP surgeries plant pollinator-friendly borders. CSH has created the Bee Healthy Project Guide to help others create similar projects.
Green Health Routes
Our Green Health Routes programme creates walking routes between health centres and areas of publicly accessible green space to encourage people to get outside and enjoy nature on their doorstep. The programme develops route maps and encourages GPs to prescribe the walks to their patients via ‘green prescriptions’. We have established regular walking groups from surgeries and have celebrated local green space through community walking events and workshops.
We also work with Plantlife on Gweirgloddiau Gwych Cymru: Magnificent Meadows Wales to create 'meadows health and wellbeing routes’ that connect hospitals to species-rich grassland for the benefit of patients, staff, visitors, and the wider community.
National policy work
CSH staff are members of national bodies, such as the Green Infrastructure Partnership and Natural England Outdoors for All Working Group and feed into government white papers and working groups. At regional and local levels, we link into Local Nature Partnerships and various NHS bodies. We have also contributed to a number of research projects, including research with the University of Sheffield on Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature.
Green Space and Health course
Green space contributes to physical and mental wellbeing and offers therapeutic benefits for recovery from illness. This 3-part foundation course explores the evidence and illustrates how you can integrate these into your own practice. Learn more