The benefits of green social prescribing

How green social prescribing offers an opportunity for rural landowners and for people receiving wellbeing support

We all know how being able to easily access nature and green space has a positive benefit on our own wellbeing. But imagine if that could be harnessed to bring an additional income stream to a farm or area of rural land. In doing so, it could also improve health outcomes for those who cannot always readily access outdoor activities, reduce the use of clinical intervention and the associated cost to the NHS.

The concept

Social prescribing in its widest sense is about connecting people to activities, groups and support that improve health and wellbeing, and part of this is what health professionals call green social prescribing. You may not be familiar with this term, but you may recognise activities that fall under its umbrella that are practiced at neighbouring businesses. These include activities such as village walking for health schemes, community gardening projects, care farms or groups with conservation charities building stiles or planting trees.

The benefits

Research has consistently shown the advantages of green social prescribing. The mental health benefits associated with visits to woodland in the UK are estimated to be £185m each year with visits to English woodlands saving the NHS £141m annually. A further study by Leeds Beckett University discovered that for every £1 invested in nature volunteering projects tackling inactivity and loneliness there is a social return valued at £8.50.

The application

There is currently a trial underway to see how green social prescribing, and indeed social prescribing more generally, can improve mental health outcomes, reduce health inequality, manage demand on the NHS and develop best practice.

However, this test is focusing very much on the administrative side.

The CLA is now in discussions with Natural England and a member in the Midlands to start building a more practical approach for CLA members to help unlock the benefits of green social prescribing.

In the recently published Environmental Improvement Plan the government has a stated ambition to increase the scale of green social prescribing across the healthcare system. It aims to have 900,000 people referred to some form of social prescribing by 2023/24. This presents a clear opportunity for land managers to really make a difference to their local community whilst diversifying the income stream of their own business.

We know that over 90% of adults report that time spent outdoors is good for their physical and mental health. Currently, 38% of people do not have green or blue space within 15 minutes’ walk of their home.

So far, the programme has recorded over 6,000 referrals to activities and is gathering evidence on the effectiveness of green social prescribing and how best to implement it. Emerging findings from the programme are encouraging, showing significant improvements in participants’ mental health.

Contact your CLA regional team for some helpful advice.

Claire Wright is a trained Mental Health First Aider.

Key contact:

Claire Wright (9).jpg
Claire Wright National Access Adviser, London