Thanks to a pioneering partnership with RSPB Scotland, GPs in Shetland are now able to prescribe nature to their patients.

In what has been described as the ‘first of its kind’ in the UK, a partnership project between NHS Shetland and RSPB Scotland has been extended following a successful trial, which took place at the surgery in Scalloway in 2017. GPs throughout Shetland now have the option of prescribing a dose of nature – called ‘Nature Prescriptions’ – as part of their patients’ treatment programme.

Nature Prescriptions recognises the benefits of nature in reducing blood pressure, reducing anxiety, and increasing happiness – elements that may be in decline in society as a whole as our disconnection with nature increases.

RSPB Scotland have produced a leaflet and calendar of seasonal activities using local knowledge, attempting 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’. RSPB Scotland confirmed that the leaflets 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.”

Lauren Peterson, Health Improvement Practitioner for NHS Shetland, said: “The Health Improvement Department of the NHS are delighted to be working alongside RSPB Scotland to be able to promote such a worthwhile project in Shetland. Through the Nature Prescriptions project GPs and nurses can explain and promote the many benefits which being outdoors can have on physical and mental wellbeing. The fantastic leaflet resource which has been produced by RSPB Scotland assists in highlighting the many benefits which are to be gained from being outdoors in the natural environment. It also provides inspiration in the forms of different ideas of what to do out in the fresh air which may help to ‘Nature Your Soul’ at different times of the year.”

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