Wednesday 4 January 2023
- Following the successful pilot of RSPB Nature Prescriptions in Scotland, they will be offered for the first time in England
- Working in partnership with social prescribing services in High Peak, Derbyshire, the Nature Prescriptions trial includes a calendar of ideas to enable people to connect with nature and boost their health and wellbeing - from searching for frost on leaves to listening to the sounds of nature
- There is growing evidence indicating the physical and mental health benefits of connecting with nature, including reduced stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression
- Nature Prescriptions are a free to use, accessible and flexible way to improve wellbeing and could provide a crucial support option at a time of significant cost of living pressures
Health professionals in Derbyshire have become the first in England to use RSPB Nature Prescriptions to boost health and wellbeing.
The new project, led by the RSPB and the Peak District National Park Authority, is working with social prescribing services to trial Nature Prescriptions, a novel way to improve quality of life and wellbeing for people through nature. It is the first time the project has been trialled in England.
A growing body of evidence indicates that individuals with a greater connection to nature experience improved mental wellbeing, greater vitality and happiness, and are more satisfied with life. Research also shows that increasing your connection with nature can positively impact a range of conditions, including stress, anxiety and depression.
A Nature Prescription is a free to use, non-medical approach based on accessible, self-led activities that people can do from home, on their own or with others; and that aim to create lasting connections with nature.
The trial comes on the back of successful pilot projects ran by RSPB Scotland in the Shetland Isles and Edinburgh which resulted in over 74% of patients saying they benefitted from their prescription and 87% of people saying that they would continue to use nature to support their health and wellbeing. The project is now also expanding to other locations in Scotland.
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. Working together with the Peak District National Park we have used our experience of connecting people to nature combined with the local knowledge of social prescribing services to develop something which is locally relevant and accessible for people to do from their own homes or close by. At the end of the day we’re all part of the natural world, and helping people to connect with it is so important."
A Nature Prescription can be offered by a trained healthcare professional and includes a leaflet and calendar of ideas. From listening to the sounds of nature from your window to searching for early morning frost on leaves, the ideas aim to highlight a wide range of ways to realise the health benefits that being in nature can deliver.
Two social prescribing services in the High Peak are involved in the trial, which together receive referrals from 13 different GP practices in the area, community mental health teams, adult social care and the Live Life Better Derbyshire scheme, as well as self-referrals.
Tom Miller, a GP in Buxton, Derbyshire, 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."
Social prescribing is a service designed to assist people to explore ‘what matters to them’ and take a holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing. Social prescribers give people time and help to research solutions to problems that they identify. They connect people to local partners, self-help and community groups and agencies for practical, social, physical and emotional support.
Jess McFall, social prescribing manager at High Peak Community and Voluntary Support, said: "To be the first area in England involved in Nature Prescriptions is exciting and inspiring! We’ve been really impressed with the materials and are eagerly looking forward to connecting our clients to nature and seeing the impact this may have on members of our community first hand. What’s even more special is that the suggestions in the calendar have been carefully curated to make them specific to the places, spaces and environments we all love in the High Peak."
Ruth Towner-Yates, community health & wellbeing manager at The Bureau social prescribing service, said: "The evidence of the positive impact of connecting with nature is very positive. It’s a privilege to have been involved in the roll out of this work in the High Peak and we eagerly await good outcomes for our social prescribing clients using it."
The RSPB has worked collaboratively with the Peak District National Park Authority and the High Peak and Glossopdale Primary Care Networks to set up the trial.
Jo Hanney, communities and wellbeing ranger at the Peak District National Park, added: "We have decades of experience of enabling people to connect with nature in the Peak District National Park, but the RSPB Nature Prescription is a new way of working for us. This experience and our knowledge of the Peak District have been key to developing the new tool, which is the first of its kind in England. 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."
The trial will start with social prescribing services in the High Peak. It is hoped that it will be expanded across England and to other healthcare professionals in the future.
Sarah Walker, added: "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."
To find out more about nature prescriptions visit the RSPB website.