NHS staff learn about benefit of ‘nature prescriptions’

NHS staff outside Glebe House Surgery in Bedale.

Healthcare professionals from Richmondshire and Hambleton have taken part in a novel training session on ‘RSPB nature prescriptions’.

Six NHS workers gathered at Glebe House Surgery in Bedale for a two-hour workshop delivered by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority in partnership with the RSPB.

The session introduced a new resource – a beautifully produced calendar – which can be given to patients to improve their well-being through strengthening their connection to nature.

One of the suggestions in the calendar is to notice the colours, smells, shapes and sounds in your local park – or in the national park – and that was tried out by the group in Bedale.

Advanced First Contact Mental Health Practitioner at Glebe House Surgery, Janet Clapham, said: “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much it will fit in day-to-day with what we do and the patients that I see every day.

“For example those people who have been struggling for some time with depression, and we may have to look at them being signed off for work, it gives them a sense of purpose to reconnect with their local community or garden or green space.

“A nature prescription, in a way, gives them permission to think about themselves for a while.

“Another example might be someone who is lonely, really socially isolated – and they don’t want to go out in busy places – this gives them some lovely examples of how they can reconnect.”

Mrs Clapham said she saw around 40-50 people a week in the surgery and that she could envisage giving an RSPB Nature Prescription to around 1 in 10 of them.

“There are lots of inspirational options in the calendar about what they can do, which they might not have thought about, or thought could be beneficial.  It’s not a have to, it’s an if you want to.”

The RSPB Nature Prescriptions project began as a collaboration between the RSPB and doctors in Shetland in 2018.

A pilot scheme was subsequently run in Edinburgh.

Now the RSPB is working in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and North York Moors National Park Authority to help improve the health and wellbeing of people and communities from Whitby to Wensleydale.

Education, engagement and well-being manager at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Kiri Wood, said: “It is great that health practitioners in Richmondshire and Hambleton are keen to support their patients with an RSPB Nature Prescription.

“The calendar gives people ideas on how to connect with and support nature each month.  Each month there is also a suggestion of somewhere to visit in the National Park.”

Nature and well-being manager at the RSPB, Sarah Walker, said: “Our research has shown that having a personal connection to nature improves people’s health and happiness.

“So, it’s fantastic to support social prescribing link workers and mental health practitioners to confidently talk to their clients about the benefits of nature.

“If you’ve got a trusted healthcare professional saying ‘take time out to connect with nature’, then it can be really powerful.”

More information on the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s education, engagement and wellbeing programmes is here.