The NHS Forest works with healthcare organisations to open up their green spaces to local communities and to promote better use of the natural environment by staff and patients because of the wealth of evidence that links green space with better health and wellbeing. The programme promotes preventative healthcare by increasing people's access to green spaces, helping local people to stay healthy and aiding the recovery of patients by using the benefits of the natural environment.
The project's initial focus was on planting trees, taking the opportunity to bring NHS staff, patients and local communities together, and because trees are health-giving and absorb carbon dioxide. The NHS Forest now has a range of outdoor therapeutic environments that are featured at the programme's sites – they include orchards, community gardens, rehabilitation and dementia gardens, green gyms and green health routes.
There are currently c200 sites that have joined the NHS Forest in England, Wales and Scotland. The majority of the sites are NHS organisations, including mental health trusts, teaching hospitals and GP surgeries, but any health organisation that is working to improve wellbeing can be a part of this national programme. Joining the NHS Forest is easy, and once a site is registered we can help with sponsorship, promotion and development of the site. In addition, individuals and companies can sponsor trees for healthcare sites.
Each year we run a 2@2 campaign on NHS Sustainability Day in March, whereby NHS sites commit to plant 2 trees at 2 o’clock. We also produce a regular newsletter and support NHS Forest sites by sharing information about providing engaging activities for communities and patients in environmental projects. Annually, the NHS Forest team runs a conference to highlight site activities and to celebrate their achievements. Details of our most recent conference can be accessed here. The programme staff also work to bridge the NHS Forest's local projects to national policy on 'green healthcare'.
To find out more about the NHS Forest, or to support this charitable programme by sponsoring one or more trees, visit the NHS Forest website.