Project: Biodiversity audit and climate change assessment
Assessing the biodiversity and greenspaces on the NHS Lothian estate
NHS Lothian is the first health board in Scotland to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the biodiversity of the green spaces in its estate. The move is part of an ambitious plan to reduce the health board’s overall carbon footprint and to use its green spaces to improve the health and wellbeing of the communities it serves.
With 81 hectares of green space throughout its estate, NHS Lothian has significant natural capital that supports biodiversity as well as bringing with it a wide range of health and wellbeing benefits.
The audit, conducted by Natural Capital Solutions, is at the forefront of sustainable development approaches in NHS Scotland, with NHS Lothian being the first health board in Scotland to undertake such a comprehensive assessment of their biodiversity.
The full detailed natural capital account and an illustrative summary are available to download below:
With 81 hectares of green space throughout its estate, NHS Lothian has recognised that it is responsible for significant natural capital that supports biodiversity and a wide range of benefits: regulating air quality, taking up carbon and increasing health and wellbeing. How significant are these assets, and how can they be managed to meet NHS Lothian’s goals and commitments?
Download the Biodiversity Climate Change Assessment Summary (2.5 MB)
In collaboration with NHS Lothian Charity, NHS Lothian commissioned Natural Capital Solutions and collaborators to deliver a biodiversity, climate change and nature-based health benefits assessment of the natural capital assets (habitats) of their estate. The NHS in Scotland has a duty as a public body to further the conservation of biodiversity (Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act) and meet the ambitious climate change target of net zero by 2045 (The Climate Change (Scotland) Act). At the same time, the importance of biodiversity and natural capital in delivering health benefits is increasingly recognised within the NHS. This document reports on an assessment of the natural capital assets (biodiversity, carbon sequestration, air quality regulation and health) of the NHS Lothian estate. This sets a biodiversity and benefits baseline for the estate and five case study sites, so NHS Lothian is able to adapt the management of its estate to meet its policy responsibilities and to increase the provision of multiple ecosystem service benefits.
Download the NHS Lothian Biodiversity and Climate Change Assessment (7.9 MB)
The importance of biodiversity
NHS Lothian’s estate is complex: it is spread across 94 sites with a mix of hospitals, community hospitals, health centres and care homes, and the amount of green space per site can range from rich woodland surroundings to just a single square of grass.
The plants that are grown on these green spaces (especially trees, hedges and scrub) capture carbon from the atmosphere, offsetting human emissions, and cleaning the air of pollution from nearby roads and car parks. The green landscape also provides habitats for diverse species, as well as providing nature-based health interventions such as gardening and walking activities, helping to improve the lives of NHS patients and staff.
As a way of identifying how significant these assets are and how they can be managed to meet NHS Lothian’s goals and commitments, Natural Capital Solutions was commissioned to perform a natural capital assessment of the estate.
This assessment supports the delivery of the Sustainable Development Framework and Action Plan and the Greenspace and Health Strategic Framework. It assesses the potential of the NHS estate to meet its policy commitments in relation to climate change and biodiversity, and identifies where other public natural capital benefits, particularly related to heath, can be enhanced.
The important role that biodiversity plays in therapeutic health interventions
The importance of biodiversity and natural capital in delivering health benefits is increasingly recognised within the NHS and is at the core of our Green Health Strategy. As a result of the pandemic, there has been a re-appreciation of outdoor space and the value it brings and this report recognises the role that NHS Lothian’s estate can play in a green recovery.
Greenspace-based activities have an important role to play in supporting wider community and public health, with everyday contact with nature having a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing and reducing stress. This is backed up by a growing evidence base from organisations including the World Health Organisation and NICE that shows contact with nature and access to greenspace is good for our health. This Biodiversity Audit a great opportunity to explore ways to unlock these benefits for more people.