New nature test sites for mental health research

The government has announced that seven sites will receive a share of over £5.5 million pot to research how nature can be used to improve mental health and well-being.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow says that the new test and learn sites, which are based across England, will focus on communities hardest hit by coronavirus. This could include those living in deprived areas, people with mental health conditions or BAME communities.

The sites will each explore and bring together opportunities for communities to get involved in their natural environment. This could include activities such as walking, cycling, community gardening and food-growing projects, and practical conservation tasks such as tree planting. For people who need help to get involved this could include supported visits to local green spaces, waterways and the coast, and other outdoor activities to reduce isolation and loneliness.

The funding will support the Green Social Prescribing programme, which is the practice of supporting patients to engage in nature-based activities, and play an important role in the nation’s recovery as we build back better and greener. If successful, the test and learn sites could be rolled out across the country.

Pow said: “Many of us have seen first-hand during this difficult time the benefit that connecting with nature can have on our health and mental wellbeing, and I am delighted to announce the first sites for this inspiring scheme which will improve people’s access to and engagement with nature and green spaces. As we build back better and greener from the pandemic, we are looking forward to working closely with these sites to deliver an enhanced green social prescribing offer which will deliver real benefits for individuals across the country.”

The successful projects are:

  •     Humber Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership
  •     South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System
  •     Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Integrated Care System
  •     Joined Up Care Derbyshire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership
  •     Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership
  •     Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership
  •     Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership