Project: Green Health Activity Pathway

Connecting with nature and gardens at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital


This three year project led by the Cyrenians will establish a sustainable person-centred green health activity pathway at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. The therapeutic activities will support the patient community to use the community gardens and associated greenspace to improve their health and wellbeing. From the first connections with nature and gardens on the wards through to ongoing support on discharge the project will support people to move towards positive more stable futures. Working with staff and partners across the site, the project will embed this pathway for the future.

What we want to do

We want to develop a sustainable pathway for Green Health Activities at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Our experience has shown us the benefits of therapeutic activities within the community gardens and the demand for these activities has never been higher. Previous funding has allowed us to pilot these approaches and we now need to bring them together into a co-ordinated programme.

We want to create a pathway that supports members of the hospital community who are experiencing severe mental health problems to access green health therapeutic opportunities. We know that for many patients the support to use the community gardens needs to start before they have stepped out of the ward and for others they need to know that there will still be a place for them once they have been discharged.

This project will build upon the relationships and trust we have established with NHS Lothian staff and become a key anchor organisation for the delivery of green health activity on the NHS estate. This work will leading to improved health and wellbeing of NHS Lothian patients directly support the delivery of the Lothians Greenspace.

How we are going to do it

Our person-centred approach will ensure that there is a clear progression pathway from first contact with patients on wards through to discharge, and beyond. We will offer a range of green health activities that match the needs of both inpatients and outpatients. These activities are broadly split into the following 3 groups:

Early-engagement activities – starting the green health journey for hospital inpatients

For many people the green health journey starts on the wards and opportunities to access greenspace or gardening activities can vary substantially. By providing activities that can be done on the ward, we will support the patients and staff to develop a connection with nature. For many this will be there first step into using the outdoors as a therapeutic environment.

Supporting in-patients to access therapeutic activities

The Royal Edinburgh Hospital Community Garden provides an ideal space for therapeutic activities but patients need to be able to get there and, in our experience, the inpatients who have the most to gain often need the most support to access the opportunities. People experiencing severe mental ill health will often need a member of ward staff and other support to take part in gardening activities.

 As part of an NHS Lothian Charity funded pilot we successfully tested a volunteer-led patient buddying scheme. The buddies developed relationships with the patients and staff and supported them to access 121 and small group gardening activities. The approach was popular with staff and patients and we now have a bank of trained volunteer buddies and a waiting list of patients but need the capacity to support and manage this to achieve its full potential.

Connecting outpatients – Bridging the gap on discharge

For people being discharged from hospital it is important that they have services in place to help them in their transition back into the community. We want to provide a bridge to support this transition. We want to provide a streamlined pathway for people leaving hospital, to ensure they are able to take part in green health activities post-discharge.

Wildflower bed at Royal Edinburgh Hospital
A bed of wildflowers at Royal Edinburgh Hospital Community Garden

Project partner

Community Gardens at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital

Become a partner

We often work with mental health services and areas that have long stay patients. In communities, we are focused on reducing health inequalities and work with organisations that share our intention to improve health for those most in need. We are always interested in hearing about new opportunities, so get in touch if you want to discuss how, together, we can support NHS Lothian patients and staff.