Doctors will be told to prescribe country walks under new proposals

Doctors will be told to prescribe country walks to boost patients’ physical and mental health under new proposals to ease burden on NHS

  • Environment Secretary George Eustice will tell GPs to issue ‘green prescriptions’
  • These will tell patients to spend more time outside in Britain’s beauty spots
  • Vulnerable people could also be sent on coach trips to Britain’s national parks

Doctors will be told to prescribe time in green spaces to boost patients’ physical and mental health under proposals to ease the burden on the NHS.

In a speech this morning, Environment Secretary George Eustice will say that instead of simply handing out pills, GPs and other health professionals could start issuing ‘green prescriptions’ telling patients to visit Britain’s beauty spots.

Under the £4million scheme, doctors will also be able to urge people to do gardening, join cycling and walking groups, take part in outdoor ‘green gym’ sessions and even help plant trees in their local area.

The plan could also be used to send vulnerable people – such as care home residents – on coach trips to Britain’s national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. It is hoped that the scheme will boost the country’s mental health, help tackle the obesity problem and also help coronavirus sufferers to recover.

Environment Secretary George Eustice will say that instead of simply handing out pills, GPs and other health professionals could start issuing ‘green prescriptions’ telling patients to visit Britain’s beauty spots (stock image)

In an online speech to the Green Alliance this morning, Mr Eustice will pledge that nature will be at the heart of the efforts to reboot the economy following the pandemic. 

He will set out Government plans to boost the environment after Brexit, while also warning of the negative impacts that European Union environmental law has had on protecting nature.

And he will announce plans to ‘simplify’ the environmental impact assessments some developments have to carry out, in the wake of Boris Johnson’s promise to ‘build, build, build’ out of the economic crisis.

But it is the £4million pot to prescribe time in nature which is set to be the most eye-catching.

The money will pay for pilot schemes to ‘help us to understand how best to connect people, especially those hit hardest by Covid-19, with the beautiful British countryside’.

The plan could also be used to send vulnerable people – such as care home residents – on coach trips to Britain’s national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (stock image)

Mr Eustice will say that people can benefit both physically and mentally from being in nature, and that the plan can ‘ease the burden’ on the NHS.

Green prescribing has been up and running in New Zealand since 1998, and eight out of ten GPs there have issued green prescriptions to patients.

Patients are allotted a support worker who encourages them to be more active through phone calls, face-to-face meetings or a support group. Progress is then reported back to the GP. 

One survey found that 72 per cent noticed positive changes to their health, 67 per cent improved their diet and more than half felt stronger and fitter. 

Green prescription-type pilots have already been tried out in Dartmoor, Exmoor and Liverpool. And in Weymouth and Portland, GPs are encouraged to prescribe walks, conservation work, gardening and sailing.

The scheme is expected to start in autumn and will run for at least two years.

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