Family doctors to offer patients ‘nature prescriptions’

Five GP practices in Edinburgh will part in a trial designed to make people healthier and happier.

Family doctors to offer patients ‘nature prescriptions’ RSPB Scotland

GPs in Edinburgh are issuing ‘nature prescriptions’ in a bid to improve patients’ health and wellbeing. 

The initiative between RSPB Scotland and Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation will see five practices take part in a five-month trial in hopes that connecting with nature will make people healthier and happier.

East Craigs Medical Centre, Leith Mount Surgery, Inchpark Surgery, St Triduana’s Medical Practice and Mill Lane Surgery will all take part in the trial.

Nature Prescriptions began in Shetland in 2017 as a partnership between RSPB Scotland and NHS Shetland and was successfully rolled out to all ten GP practices across the island in 2018. 

The new Edinburgh pilot aims to discover whether nature prescriptions can be delivered in a similar way in an urban environment.

If successful, the initiative could be rolled out throughout Scotland. 

RSPB Scotland has produced leaflets and calendars with information specific to Edinburgh to help patients connect with nature in a variety of ways, from listening to birdsong to helping local wildlife thrive. 

Nature prescriptions will be offered alongside regular prescriptions as part of a range of health treatments prescribed by GPs.

Ian Mackenzie, Green Health programme manager for the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, said: “Greenspace-based activities have an important role to play in supporting wider community and public health, with everyday contact with nature having a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing and reducing stress. 

“This is backed up by a growing evidence base from organisations including the World Health Organisation and NICE that shows contact with nature and access to greenspace is good for our health. 

“As part of our Greenspace and Health strategy, the Nature Prescriptions pilot is a great opportunity to test out how we can unlock these benefits for more people. 

“In urbans areas such as Edinburgh, we often overlook the nature on our doorsteps and miss out on the potential benefits. 

“Through this project we are looking forward to exploring how GPs can use their local greenspaces to help their patients.”

Dr Sara Hornibrook from Leith Mount Surgery said: “The GPs are really looking forward to participating in this pilot. Prescribing nature is a wonderful idea, particularly with all the green spaces and coastal areas that Edinburgh has to offer.”

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