'Birdsong and nature walks' prescribed by Orkney GPs following trial

Nature prescriptions will be used to help tackle conditions such as high bloody pressure and anxiety and aim to improve sleep quality and the immune system.

Orkney GPs prescribe nature walks and birdsong listening following successful trial in Shetland and Edinburgh STV News

Nature prescriptions such as listening to birdsong and taking a walk are being offered by GPs in Orkney following a successful rollout in Shetland and Edinburgh.

NHS Orkney announced on Thursday that they have teamed up with RSPB Scotland and nature conservation programme, Species on the Edge, for the initiative.

It is hoped nature prescriptions will help tackle a range of conditions such as high blood pressure and anxiety, and improve sleep quality, memory and concentration, and the immune system.

Patients are given a nature prescription calendar, which suggests seasonal activities using local knowledge.

Suggested activities include listening out for different bird calls, selecting an outdoor spot close to home to regularly sit, and keeping a nature diary.

After first being trialled in Shetland and across five GP practices in Edinburgh, 74% of patients reported having benefitted from the prescription, and 91% of health professionals stated that they would continue to offer nature prescriptions.

Dr Brunt, GP at Skerryvore Practice, said: “Myself and other local doctors love the newly developed Orkney nature prescription calendar and can’t wait to introduce it to our patients during consultations.

“We are confident that nature prescribing will enhance our management of a wide range of physical and mental health conditions. Patients are therefore encouraged to ask their doctor or nurse about nature prescribing during discussion of treatment options for any new or long-term health condition.”

Laura Skaife-Knight, NHS Orkney chief executive, said: “I am delighted to see the nature prescription calendar launching here in Orkney. We are in the fortunate position of having lots of outdoor space with so many beautiful areas to explore.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved in developing this prescription calendar. I look forward to seeing it benefit many members of our local community and the positive difference it will make.”

Samantha Stringer, Species on the Edge people engagement officer in Orkney, said: “Taking the time to connect with nature allows us to reflect and helps us slow down to notice and experience not just nature, but ourselves. We become more mindful, and our curiosity opens to see new things that encourage, inspire and delight us – extraordinary moments in the ordinary.

“We hope that nature prescriptions can provide personal and meaningful connections, improving physical and mental wellbeing and complementing other health interventions. We have included accessible activities for a range of patients and conditions which may include mental health, chronic pain, and long-term health issues.

“Each month there are ten activities to try, many of which can be done simply from a window, a small garden, or in a local area. And this year Species on the Edge are going beyond the calendar to run a series of free wellbeing events linked to some of the monthly activity suggestions.”

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