Project: Nature Prescriptions at the Western General Hospital

NHS Lothian Charity is working in partnership with the RSPB on a pilot project to deliver Nature Prescriptions to support the health of people and nature at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

NHS Lothian Charity’s Green Health team has partnered with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in a pioneering pilot project to introduce Nature Prescriptions that support both people and nature at the Western General in Edinburgh.

Since May 2023, RSPB’s Nature Connections Officer, Ida Fabrizio, has been working on-site at the hospital and her role will continue until Spring 2024.

Creating Meaningful Nature Activities

Hospital environments, with their long corridors, medical equipment and artificial lighting can feel disconnected from nature. On wards many patients have limited access to the outdoors and can be indoors for long periods. This booklet provides some useful activities for patients and staff to help reconnect with nature.

Belhaven Community Hospital Garden - image by John Sinclair

The objectives of the pilot project are as follows:

  • Test out nature prescriptions and nature connection activities for a range of users in this acute hospital setting.
  • Increase patient activity in the courtyards and gardens of the hospital as part of rehabilitation and recovery pathways in the Medicine for the Elderly Wards.
  • Enhance the therapeutic and biodiversity value of the grounds by collaborating with the grounds and gardens team.
  • Assess the benefits experienced by patients and hospital staff from being more connected to their local greenspaces and wildlife.
  • Explore how patients on wards with limited access to greenspace can feel more connected to nature for its therapeutic benefits.

Highlights of the Nature Connections project so far include:

  • Conducting three weekly nature connection workshops across four different Medicine for the Elderly wards, featuring sensory activities with plants and flowers, as well as collecting and capturing personal nature stories with individuals living with dementia.
  • Creating a new suite of resources called ‘Nature Handling Boxes’ for use on the wards, including activity cards.
  • Conducting a biodiversity audit of the Western General Hospital and providing recommendations to maximise wildlife and establish ‘Our Natural Health Service’ on the site.
  • Organizing therapeutic wood carving workshops for staff onsite, as wood carving has been shown to reduce stress levels, blood pressure and anxiety levels.
  • Holding staff training sessions on utilizing nature connections in the caregiving environment outdoors at a local nature reserve.
  • Organising clean-ups activities in hospital courtyards with staff and patients, followed by replanting with native species to promote biodiversity on the site.
  • Offering drop-in nature connection sessions for staff and patients to share practical tips for finding moments of calm and respite in the greenspaces on the Western General Hospital site.

Carey Moss, Meaningful Activity Coordinator on Wards 70 and 71, expressed her thoughts on the impact of a mindful morning bird walk around the hospital site, stating

Every staff member should start their working day like this, it has made me feel ready for anything.”

This collaboration between NHS Lothian Charity’s Green Health team and RSPB has brought about progress in fostering nature connections and promoting wellbeing at the Western General Hospital. Through the innovative approach of Nature Prescriptions and nature connection activities, we are working towards a greener healing environment. With ongoing efforts to maximise the biodiversity and therapeutic value of the hospital grounds, we look forward to the continuing success of this transformative project in the months ahead.

Useful Resources

This leaflet provides more information on Nature Prescriptions for healthcare settings.

Nature Prescriptions Edinburgh – Leaflet

The RSPB has produced a calendar of ideas to help people connect with nature and improve their health and wellbeing.

RSPB Nature Prescriptions Edinburgh – Calendar

Find out more about the RSPB’s Nature Prescriptions

Read the full report of the Edinburgh pilot with GP surgeries.

Nature Prescriptions – Edinburgh Pilot Final Report

Contact us

Get in touch for more information on our Nature Connections project