Local organisations can apply for government funding to deliver ‘green social prescribing’ within their communities, as part of a pilot designed to help improve mental health and wellbeing in the areas hit hardest by Covid-19.
Four locations in England will be picked to share £4.27m in funding, which can be used to launch green initiatives such as walking and cycling groups, outdoor gyms, tree planting, gardening and other outdoor activities to reduce isolation and loneliness.
The pilot, which will run for two years, will be used to help establish how green social prescribing can be scaled up and how patient referrals to environment and nature-based activities can be increased, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
The project will also monitor the impact on mental health outcomes, health inequalities and patient demand within the health and social care system, DHSC said.
The four areas will be chosen based on severity of need and the potential for impact, including around supporting the recovery from coronavirus.
A Nottingham Trent University study, published in July, found that social prescribing can improve the health-related quality of life for people suffering with loneliness or social anxiety.
According to NHS England, the NHS could save over £2 billion in treatment costs ‘if everyone in England had equal access to good quality green space’.
Dr Marie Polley, Social Prescribing Network co-chair, told Management in Practice: ‘We are absolutely delighted with the launch this week of the Government’s green social prescribing pilot. For the last five years, the Social Prescribing Network has continually encouraged collaboration between people, organisations and sectors, when implementing, running and scaling up social prescribing schemes.
‘We are therefore particularly pleased to see that the green social prescribing pilot scheme is being jointly managed by a range of government departments and bodies. Covid-19 has exposed a level of inequality in our society that is unacceptable. We recognise that these green prescribing pilot schemes will be a valuable contribution to demonstrating how social prescribing can address inequalities.’
Jo Churchill, junior health minister, said: ‘The new green social prescribing pilots will help people improve their overall wellbeing through activities like walking and gardening, while having a far-reaching positive impact on their mental and physical health, reducing loneliness and enhancing employability.
‘We know we need to think innovatively when tackling health inequalities to ensure everyone can really make the most of life. I would strongly encourage those who want to make the most of nature and our natural capital and to advance the health and wellbeing of their local communities to apply.’
Applications will need to:
- Be led by an Integrated Care System working with partner organisations, including organisations from the environment sector.
- Provide a clear explanation of how the project will help to address health inequalities and support coronavirus affected populations.
- Provide evidence of a whole system and partnership approach to project implementation.
- Demonstrate relevant experience and ability to deliver.