Nature to be prescribed to patients who tell their doctor they’re feeling unwell

Patients will be told to head out into the great outdoors, like the High Peak district in Derbyshire (Picture: Getty/Moment RF)

People feeling under the weather in England are to be given a new tonic by their local GP – a prescription of nature.

As part of a more holistic approach to patient wellbeing, people suffering from a variety of health issues will be advised to connect with nature to help the healing process.

The first nature prescriptions will be given to patients in High Peak, Derbyshire, after a successful pilot project in Scotland.

Tom Miller, a GP in Buxton, said: ‘Making sure we’re taking care of our health and wellbeing is incredibly important, particularly in January when life can be a real struggle; the days are short and money can be tight.

‘Nature prescriptions are a great way for people to potentially boost their wellbeing by taking time to be with nature.

‘Evidence is emerging that time outdoors is good for our health and this is an ingenious, simple and cost-effective way to support people to do just that.’

The holistic approach to health and wellbeing will also see patients directed to a variety of support services based on their needs, including help with financial management and personal training.

People walk in England's beautiful Peak District

A walk in England’s beautiful Peak District will be soon be prescribed by GPs (Picture: Shutterstock)

The project is being run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), in collaboration with the Peak District National Park Authority.

It comes as increasing evidence shows that people who are connected with nature have improved mental wellbeing, are happier and are more satisfied with life.

The original trial operated in conjunction with RSPB Scotland in the Shetland Islands and Edinburgh saw 74% of patients report they benefited from the nature prescription, and 87% say they would continue to use the countryside to support their health and wellbeing.

In Derbyshire, patients will be referred by community mental health teams, adult social care teams, other local support agencies and 13 GP surgeries in the High Peak area to two social prescribing services.

People will be given a calendar of ideas to inspire them to connect with nature, including searching for frost on leaves and listening to sounds outdoors, and can complete the programme on their own or with others.

Sarah Walker, nature and wellbeing project manager at RSPB England, said: ‘I’m thrilled to see the project coming to life in the High Peak and can’t wait to see how people in the area benefit from nature prescriptions.

‘At the end of the day we’re all part of the natural world, and helping people to connect with it is so important.

‘We’d love to see nature as a part of every health professional’s toolkit in the future. So many people are faced with a whole range of pressures in their lives and nature could provide a way to help them through.’

High Peak partially covers the Peak District National Park, the country’s first national park, which opened in 1951 and boasts 555 square miles of land. Around 20 million people live within one hour’s travelling time.

Jo Hanney, communities and wellbeing ranger at the park, said: ‘The RSPB nature prescription is a new way of working for us.

‘We will be able to reach a far wider and more diverse audience by connecting people to the national park through the prescription.

‘This exciting partnership sees the real benefits of spaces like our national parks more widely recognised as places that can make a very real and positive difference to people’s lives.’


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