Doctors should prescribe gardening far more often for patients with cancer, dementia and mental health problems, the NHS has been urged in a new report.
Outdoor spaces including gardens can reduce social isolation among older people as well as help patients recover and manage conditions such as dementia, according to the influential King’s Fund health thinktank.
Jane Ellison, the public health minister, backed the plan, which could see GPs in particular advising patients to spend more time outside as a way of alleviating their symptoms. “[Gardening] is profoundly good for you … [it] is a great way of keeping people active, of keeping them outside and keeping their sense of wellbeing very high,” she said. “There are things we can do around physical activity in particular that bring immediate payback ... I’m trying to put this right across the agenda of dementia and cancer.”
Parts of the country are already investing in this more social approach to health at primary care level and in some places, such as the Bromley by Bow Centre in London, GPs are already prescribing gardening. Such schemes have been proven to reduce patients’ need to see a GP or attend A&E, enhance wellbeing and even promote better sleep.
Schemes that use this type of social prescribing focus on mental health and wellbeing as much as physical health, including through reducing social isolation and strengthening community bonds.
“Social prescribing schemes, by their nature, vary considerably but generally provide a way for GPs and other primary care professionals to offer or signpost to non-clinical referral options instead of, or alongside, clinical ones,” says the report’s author, David Buck.
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