People tell us that the natural environment matters to their mental wellbeing and there is increasing evidence showing that access to green space is important for our health – both physical and mental.

From 2021-2023 Greater Manchester was one of seven national test and learn sites delivering NHS England’s Green Social Prescribing Programme that explored using our connection with nature to improve mental health.

Nature for Health explored how practitioners could support people with mental ill health, by offering connection to the natural environment through referral to nature-based activities, groups and organisations. Green social prescribing refers to people being connected to nature-based activity, and blue social prescribing refers to opportunities that are water-based.

A key aspect of the programme explored the barriers and opportunities of implementing green social prescribing in new and existing health and care system ways of working and clinical pathways.

The projects overall aim was to improve mental health outcomes for people across Greater Manchester, reduce health inequalities, and subsequently reduce demand on the health and social care system.

Working with partners across Greater Manchester, the Nature for Health pilot aimed to:

  • Scale up green social prescribing in a co-ordinated and strategic way across Greater Manchester
  • Increase Greater Manchester’s connectivity to its natural environment
  • Reduce health inequalities and burden on the health and care system
  • Understand enablers and barriers for the health and care system, so these can be addressed
  • Learn what works and what doesn’t to inform national policy

Pilot project partners

Nature for Health was funded by NHS England, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Department of Health and Social Care, Natural England, Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, National Association of Social Prescribing and Sport England.