GPs across Shetland to hand out ‘Nature Prescriptions’

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 5 October 2018 in News

NHS Shetland and RSPB Scotland said that by prescribing time in the outdoors, GPs could also help address a growing disconnect with nature across society

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GPs across Shetland will be able to hand out ‘Nature Prescriptions’ after the completion of a successful trial.

The partnership, which was trialled by NHS Shetland along with RSPB Scotland, aimed to provide a structured way for patients to access nature to help reduce blood pressure, reduce anxiety and increase happiness.

The organisers said that by prescribing time in the outdoors, GPs could also help address a growing disconnect with nature across society.

Following the success of the pilot at Scalloway surgery, the approach will be rolled out across Shetland.

The RSPB said the project helped attract new people who not normally travel to its reserves, while Dr Chloe Evans, a GP at Scalloway Health Centre, welcomed the pilot as a means of providing free, easily accessible support.

Lauren Peterson, Health Improvement Practitioner for NHS Shetland, said: “Through the Nature Prescriptions project GPs and nurses can explain and promote the many benefits which being outdoors can have on physical and mental wellbeing. 

“The fantastic leaflet resource which has been produced by RSPB Scotland assists in highlighting the many benefits which are to be gained from being outdoors in the natural environment. It also provides inspiration in the forms of different ideas of what to do out in the fresh air which may help to 'Nature Your Soul' at different times of the year.”

Karen MacKelvie, community engagement officer for RSPB Scotland said: “There is overwhelming evidence that nature has health benefits for body and mind. Shetland is “stappit foo” of natural wonders. Whenever you open your front door you can hear or see some kind of natural delight – be it a gull or a lapwing calling or the roll of a heathery hill.

“However, despite many doctors using the outdoors as a resource to combat ill-health, far fewer recommend the same strategy to their patients. So, we saw an opportunity to design a leaflet that helps doctors describe the health benefits of nature and provides plenty of local ideas to help doctors fire-up their patients’ imaginations and get them outdoors.”

For more information on creating good quality places to live and work that support health and wellbeing, see Holyrood’s upcoming Places for Health Event.

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