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Pioneering partnership between NHS Shetland and RSPB Scotland allows GPs to ‘prescribe’ nature to patients

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A prescription of fresh air is on offer in Shetland thanks to an innovative collaboration between the health board and the RSPB.

GPs in Shetland are now able to “prescribe” nature to their patients thanks to a pioneering partnership project between NHS Shetland and RSPB Scotland.

It is believed the project is the first of its kind in the UK and it  has been extended following a successful pilot.

From this week, all of Shetland’s GPs will be able to prescribe nature as part of their patient’s treatment.


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The successful pilot, which took place at Scalloway surgery last year, has led to the roll out of “Nature Prescriptions” to all ten GP surgeries across the islands.

A spokeswoman for RSPB Scotland said: “Nature prescriptions recognise the benefits of nature on reducing blood pressure, reducing anxiety and increasing happiness as well as the growing disconnection with nature throughout society.

“We have produced a leaflet and a calendar of seasonal activities using local knowledge and understanding of connecting people with nature.

“It attempts to provide a greater variety of ways to realise the health benefits that nature can provide regardless of health condition, confidence or if you are a sociable or more solitary person. The leaflet will be handed out at each doctor’s discretion.”

Dr Chloe Evans, a GP at Scalloway Health Centre, said: “I want to take part because the project provides a structured way for patients to access nature as part of a non-drug approach to health problems.

“The benefits to patients are that it is free, easily accessible, allows increased connection with surroundings which hopefully leads to improved physical and mental health for individuals”.

Karen MacKelvie is a Community Engagement Officer for RSPB Scotland. She said: “It’s been a delight to work in partnership with GPs on this and it’s great for us because we get to help connect people with nature that we wouldn’t normally see at our reserves, events or on our guided walks. Helping people connect with nature is a great way to inspire them to protect it.”

While there are no existing plans to roll the nature prescriptions scheme out more widely, RSPB Scotland said it would be delighted if the success of the pilot scheme led others to adopt it.

TV doctor prescribes the outdoors 

Camping, caravan and motorhome holidays can encourage people outdoors and towards a potentially healthier lifestyle, says TV’s Dr Hilary Jones.

Dr Hilary Jones.

An advocate of preventative measures in support of good health, Dr Hilary says there’s many aspects of camping and leisure vehicle activities that support both mental and physical well-being.

Speaking ahead of the Birmingham Motorhome and Caravan Show where he is appearing, Dr Hilary said: “Two out of five GP consultations today are concerned with mental health.”

“More people are finding it difficult to manage psychological issues. We also have an obesity epidemic and problems with type-two diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and I am very opposed to prescribing medication when lifestyle changes could make such a difference.

“Being outside and fresh air is quite simply good for us: most people don’t realise that indoor pollution is considerable, and even worse than outdoor. Spending lots of time indoors means an accumulation of the symptoms of modern living, such as dust and chemicals. Our grandparents were right when they said, ‘throw the windows open’!

“I hear many people say that when they have a nice day outside, they feel less stressed, less anxious and more positive in general.”

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