Prescriptions for gardening take a step forward


Thrive has welcomed the report Gardens And Health:Implications for policy and practice by The Kings Fund, commissioned by the National Gardens Scheme (NGS).

The report calls for greater recognition and integration of gardens in NHS and public health policy and makes several recommendations.

These include calling on CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) to consider social prescribing of gardening as part of a range of approaches to improving health and looking to local authorities and their partners to explore innovative approaches to sustaining public gardens.

The health benefits of gardening are broad and diverse according to the evidence brought together for the first time in this report.

It is suggested that gardens can play a role in promoting good health and preventing ill-health, with potential long-term implications for healthcare costs. In a wide-ranging review, it shows how access to gardens has been linked to:

  • Reduced depression, loneliness, anxiety and stress
  • Benefits for various conditions including heart disease, cancer and obesity
  • Better balance which can help to prevent falls in older people (a cause of major NHS costs)
  • Alleviating symptoms of dementia
  • Improving sense of personal achievement among children

Thrive CEO Kathryn Rossiter, who was at the launch in May, said: "Over the 38 years of Thrive (formerly The Society of Horticultural Therapy), we have seen first-hand how gardening can help everyone and is particularly good for people with disabilities.

"Disabled people or those with ill health want the same opportunities and choice as everyone and gardening can help them achieve this.

"Gardening on a structured programme with Thrive can allow people to make positive changes in their lives and we have the time and skilled horticultural therapists to work with people individually to achieve their goals.

"For some it may be to lessen their anxietyand stress, for others it might be learning new skills and building confidence,or for someone with dementia it might be to enjoy some simple garden tasks,reminisce about certain plants, benefit from fresh air and gentle exercise which leads to better sleep patterns.

"We have also seen some excellent results when helping people garden after having had a stroke or heart disease, and with people recovering from an accident or ill health resulting from, for example, a brain injury.

"Social and therapeutic horticulture is the name given to what we do and comes under the wider umbrella of 'green care’. It is much more than just gardening for good health, it can really change peoples’lives so we welcome the recommendations in this report and hope it leads to social change within the NHS, policymakers, clinicians and local government."

Thrive Patron and former President of the Royal College of Physicians, Sir Richard Thompson, has been an advocate of prescribing gardening for many years, noting the cost savings and benefits to people and the NHS.

The report was also backed by Battersea MP and public health minister Jane Ellison who said: "Gardening improves your mental and physical health - it keeps you active, it can help people with dementia to feel calm and relaxed, and coming together to tend a garden tackles social isolation.

"This report will be a helpful resource for local areas as they help people to lead healthier lives."

George Plumptre, chief executive of the National Gardens Scheme said: "For the first time we’ve got some clear recommendations for policy. Active gardeners all know it’s good for you but what we haven’t been able to do is make that quantum leap to public policy."

Thrive looks forward to working with the NGS, the RHS, the NHS and all public health bodies on this issue. 

Click here for the full report.