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To encourage more homogenous working and unification of practices, the NHS Long term Plan [Ref] encouraged GP practices to get together and form Primary Care Networks (PCNs). They each cover a population of at least 30,000 people.NHS Funding streams have been provided for PCNs to take on various new staff roles under the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) - these cover a wide range of roles you may have encountered at your own Doctors Surgeries, e.g. social prescribing link workers, health and wellbeing coaches, care coordinators, dietitians, podiatrists, occupational therapists, mental health practitioners. But not STH Practitioner. This means that despite buy-in from a growing number of GPs, STH can only be offered where local provision already exists in the community and STH projects can not be financially supported by local primary care provision.

Primary care networks

Richard credits his hobby with helping him through the stresses and strains of his career as a junior medic and says gardening has been with him all his life.

'It’s been a go-to de-stresser for me. I’m not a sporty guy, I don’t get on with lycra or the idea of being in a gym and I’ve become more and more into gardening since I was a teenager. Since the pandemic the rest of the world has woken up to the benefits of gardening and now it seems that my lived experience is very much in tune with current thinking and the momentum that’s developing.'

With social prescribing booming and encouraged by the NHS, Richard felt there was a lack of publicising and coordinating local services which led him to develop Gardening4Health a website directory of national community garden schemes.

Finding a lack of STH provision in his local area, Richard was instrumental in setting up a new therapeutic garden project with funding support from his PCN and has been referring patients to a 10-week course. He has seen some significant positive changes in his patients. Richard is a firm advocate that there should be STH providers attached to every PCN ensuring that the benefits are available to everyone who needs them.

We’re looking at how we can make these kind of projects not just nice to have in a health and social care commissioning sense, but make them core and available to everyone in community healthcare settings and hospital healthcare settings too.

Dr Richard Claxton