£1m in ‘Green Social Prescribing’ grants awarded to NHS charities

On 29th May 2024
Categories: 2024

The recipients of over £1 million in funding grants to create and enhance green spaces are today being announced by the Greener Communities Fund. The announcement comes as data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows one million fewer people are gaining health benefits from nature compared with 2020, despite evidence that Green Social Prescribing – supporting people to engage in nature-based interventions and activities – delivers a wealth of positive health benefits.

Eight NHS charities will be awarded grants worth between £25,000 and £200,000 over a two-year period, to fund and support the creation of green spaces that will greatly benefit communities with limited access to nature, including NHS workers, mental health patients and people who live in built up urban communities. The initiative, now in its second year, is a partnership between environmental charity Hubbub and NHS Charities Together, funded by the Starbucks 5p cup charge.

Research commissioned by the Greener Communities Fund found that 8 in 10 of us feel healthier and more energetic after spending time in nature, while 70% of us report improved mental and physical health, from better sleep to reduced stress and improved mood. A recent report into the benefits of Green Social Prescribing also revealed that the NHS could save £625m a year by prescribing time in nature.

Parkview Clinic outdoor area official opening in Birmingham 2024. Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix Ltd

The eight recipients of the Greener Communities Fund in 2024 are:

  • A sensory garden and mindfulness area for children with additional health needs in Dorset
  • An exploratory garden for group activities including a vegetable patch, wildflower meadow and disability-friendly play equipment for children in Haringey
  • A relaxing outdoor space for patients with long-term health conditions, dementia or mobility issues in Stockport
  • A woodland space complete with yurts, kitchen, amphitheatre, allotments and outdoor plunge pools for hosting nature-based wellbeing groups in Cornwall
  • A garden to facilitate nature-based rehabilitation for patients recovering from injuries in Bristol, which builds on a national test and learn project for Green Social Prescribing
  • Therapeutic spaces at eight different sites to engage patients and community members through food growing and gardening activities in Lanarkshire
  • A revitalised courtyard area within hospital grounds to provide a safe and flexible site for patients and staff to reconnect with nature and deliver horticultural therapy in Leeds
  • A mosaic of wildlife habitats to increase biodiversity, and provide a safe space for therapy and wellbeing activities in Greenwich

Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive at NHS Charities Together, said:

“We know that there is a strong link between green spaces and improved health and wellbeing, but unfortunately there remains significant inequality in access to these spaces. We’re delighted to be partnering with Hubbub and Starbucks for a second year to continue to help remove barriers to nature and build on the incredible successes of the projects we’ve supported to date.

“One of our main objectives as a charity is to help improve the health of our nation, and in turn reduce the pressure on overstretched NHS services. We look forward to working with local NHS charities to bring to life their visions and see first-hand the significant impact that these amazing spaces will have on staff, patients and local communities alike.”

Gavin Ellis, Director and Co-Founder at Hubbub said:

“Initiatives to harness the enormous potential of Green Social Prescribing have never been more crucial. Improving access to green spaces not only hugely benefits people’s mental and physical health, but also increases biodiversity and builds our sense of connectedness with the natural world. Studies have also shown that spending time in nature makes people more likely to make more environmentally friendly lifestyle choices, as well as helping to lower their stress levels, reduce anxiety and combat loneliness.”

GP and broadcaster Dr Radha Modgil said:

“As a doctor and someone who cares deeply about health and the natural world, it is incredible to see the two come together to mutually benefit through the Greener Communities Fund. Nature helps us to feel better, reduce how stressed and anxious we feel and support connection in our local community. The work that NHS Charities Together, Hubbub and Starbucks are doing to improve access to green spaces is fundamental to changing the conversation around health; using nature and social prescribing to improve wellbeing. I’m absolutely delighted to support this initiative and am excited to see its impact.”

The Greener Communities Fund has so far benefited over 52,000 people since its first round of funding in 2023 with nine charity initiatives already underway.

Parkview Clinic outdoor area official opening in Birmingham 2024.

Success stories to date include:

  • The transformation of 10,000 sqm of unused outdoor space into a therapeutic woodland space and sensory garden for young people in mental health crisis in Birmingham
  • The development of a biodiverse, tranquil outdoor space to be used by ambulance staff and their local communities in Yorkshire
  • The provision of weekly community gardening sessions to actively engage communities in urban wards with some of the highest health inequalities in Cardiff
  • A project to improve biodiversity and space for community growing, composting and an outdoor classroom in Lancashire

The Greener Communities Fund is part of the ongoing support for Hubbub from the Starbucks 5p cup charge, which has been in place since 2018. Hubbub’s use of the funding has also focused on reducing the environmental impacts of litter and encouraging recycling and reuse, with previous funding rounds boosting coffee cup recycling and supporting innovations to increase the uptake of reusable cups.

The fund was open for expressions of interest from NHS charities from August 2023 and shortlisted projects were invited to submit full applications by January 2024. The winning projects were selected by a grant panel including representatives from Hubbub, Starbucks and NHS Charities Together.

1. An ONS study published in November 2023 revealed that a million fewer people are gaining health benefits from nature since 2020

2. Research commissioned by the Greener Communities Fund in November 2023 found that:

  • Eight in ten of us (80%) find spending time in green spaces makes us feel healthier and more energetic, while 70% of us report improved mental and physical health after spending time outdoors
  • Benefits include improved mood (75%), immune benefits (36%), sleeping more soundly (28%) and feeling less stressed (38%)

This online survey of 2000 UK adults (nationally representative was commissioned by Barley Communications and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society’s code of conduct. Data was collected between 20th-26th November 2023.

3. A report into the benefits of targeted green social prescribing by The Wildlife Trust in July 2023 revealed that the NHS could save £625m a year by prescribing time in nature

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