A team from Exeter and Plymouth Universities have been awarded funds by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to conduct a feasibility study of nature based activities reached through social prescribing. The work will help prepare for a full Randomised Controlled Trial which will help clarify whether such activities are effective in protecting and improving the mental health of participants with diagnosed conditions such as depression and anxiety. The team will work with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and Newquay Orchard.

The project is one of four funded by the NIHR and is linked to the national green social prescribing Test and Learn programme. It builds on previous work by the team including the Nature on Prescription Handbook funded by the MRC, and a report on Therapeutic Nature written for Defra.

Social prescribing, which is increasingly used in the UK, involves GPs referring people living with mental ill-health to community activities as part of their treatment. Frequently Link Workers help patients identify activities that may suit them. They might choose: community choirs; volunteering opportunities; physical activity; or nature-based activities.

There are a large number of nature-based social prescribing projects, yet few have been evaluated using robust methods. Healthcare commissioners and staff are increasingly seeking high quality evidence of the clinical effectiveness of nature-based social interventions to guide them in the best allocation of resources. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are widely accepted as the most reliable way to demonstrate effectiveness. This type of evaluation will support more confident decision making and help ensure that people with mental health needs are referred to the most appropriate interventions for them.

The outcome of the study will be a fully designed protocol, a detailed plan, for a future RCT which will assess the effectiveness of nature-based social prescribing for people with mental ill-health.

NHS Lothian Green Health and Social Prescribing

You can read more about the Prescribing Green Health in our Project of the Month and in the report Green health prescribing: its role in Lothian's Covid-19 recovery - report and briefing

greenspace scotland worked with NHS Lothian, Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation and a wide range of partners and stakeholders to develop the Greenspace and Health Strategic Framework for Edinburgh & Lothians. The Strategic Framework was published on 28 June 2019.