By Lloyd Hambridge, Neighbourhood Care Network Pharmacist for Caerphilly East
Would you like to support people’s wellbeing through promoting nature?
I’ve always been a keen advocate for encouraging people to use their local green spaces; connecting with nature and being active outdoors brings benefits to both health and wellbeing. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the value of using outdoor spaces to relax and to exercise. However, the pandemic has also highlighted the inequality of access to safe green spaces in our communities.
I linked with my colleague David Llewellyn, Service Development Lead within the Caerphilly Integrated Wellbeing Network, to explore how we could encourage people to increase their engagement with nature and the outdoors to support them with their mental health and wellbeing.
We are delivering a pilot project in conjunction with GP surgeries and third sector organisations within the Caerphilly Borough of South Wales, where a cohort of selected participants are “prescribed” outdoor activities to support and enhance mental and physical health.
In the pilot, a clinician in a GP practice refers a participant into the Nature Wellbeing scheme. The nature wellbeing coordinator then helps them choose a nature activity that suits their interests and needs by discussing the opportunities available locally. The participant then attends these activities each week enjoying the health and wellbeing benefits of nature and being outdoors.
We hope this pilot will provide the basis for developing a wider initiative, with a strong evidence base, for ensuring green spaces in the area support and strengthen residents’ wellbeing in a mutually beneficial fashion.
Some challenges have already been identified. Interventions like our pilot have been termed ‘green prescribing’ by many but we have found this term is understood as linking to climate change, carbon footprints or physical prescriptions rather than wellbeing. As a result, we are supporting a survey from Cardiff University exploring this term with the aim of establishing a name for the scheme that is clear and recognisable to both health professionals and the public.
Interventions like our pilot are rewarding and timely. More than 3.2 million antidepressant items were prescribed by GPs in Wales in the six months after the COVID-19 pandemic started. Our vision is to see pilots like ours widened to include pharmacists in all sectors as well as direct referrals from any member of the public. I would urge you to explore what’s already available locally, and if there isn’t anything in place why not explore setting something up?
A team at Cardiff University is interested in your views and experiences of green prescribing: If you are interested in taking part in a 5-minute survey please review the Survey information and complete the Survey questions.
At the RPS we are interested in exploring similar pilots and schemes to Lloyd’s and David’s. Please get in touch on [email protected] if you would like to share your practice.