Social prescribing enables GPs, nurse and others such as social care workers, pharmacists and physios to refer people, as well as people being able to refer themselves, to a range of local, non-clinical services to support their health and wellbeing.

While this community support has been happening in Greater Manchester for a long time, social prescribing provides a formal route into it for the health and care system

Social prescribing is especially helpful for people:

  • with one or more long-term conditions
  • who need support with their mental health
  • who feel lonely or isolated
  • who have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing.

Green Social Prescribing is the practice of supporting people in engaging in nature-based interventions and activities to improve their mental and physical health.

Activities might be gardening sessions, community allotments, food growing schemes, conservation, preservation of canals, walking groups and much more.

In the UK, mental health problems are among the main reasons for sickness absence (Office for National Statistics, 2021b) and the social and economic cost of mental health in England has grown in the last decade to £119 billion a year (Centre for Mental Health, 2020b).

Research shows that outdoor nature-based interventions improve mental health outcomes across all populations, including older adults with long-term conditions and people with common mental health problems and severe mental health illness, as well as healthy adults (Nature-based outdoor activities for mental and physical health: Systematic review and meta-analysis 2021).

Benefits of Green Social Prescribing

There is a long list of benefits but some of these include:

  • Increased general mental wellbeing
  • Reduction in depression, anxiety and stress related symptoms
  • Improvement in dementia-related symptoms
  • Improved self-esteem, confidence and mood
  • Increased attentional capacity and cognition
  • Improved happiness, satisfaction and quality of life
  • Sense of peace, calm or relaxation
  • Feelings of safety and security
  • Increased social contact, inclusion and sense of belonging
  • Increase in work skills, meaningful activity and personal achievement

One participant said:

“I was referred via my local mental health team, and I find it very enjoyable. It gives me something to look forward to each week and I’m getting some fresh air and dealing with nature at its best. It gets rid of a lot of bad thoughts and I’m finding it a great benefit.”