The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of being outdoors to people’s mental and physical health, as well as the inequality of access to green space.
The NHS Long Term Plan commits to significantly expanding the number of social prescribing link workers in primary care, and we are on track to exceed our commitment to 1,000 additional link workers by April 2021. Social prescribing and community-based support enable GPs, other health and care practitioners and local agencies to refer people to a link worker who gives people time and focuses on what matters to the individual. For some people this will be green social prescribing, which links them to nature-based interventions and activities, such as local walking for health schemes, community gardening and food-growing projects.
Test and learn sites
In July 2020, Environment Secretary George Eustice announced a £4 million investment for a cross-government project aimed at preventing and tackling mental ill health through green social prescribing.
This fund has since been increased with additional contributions from NHS England and NHS Improvement, Sport England and the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), taking the total to £5.77 million.
The project will test how to embed green social prescribing into communities in order to:
- improve mental health outcomes
- reduce health inequalities
- reduce demand on the health and social care system
- develop best practice in making green social activities more resilient and accessible.
This two-year project will be run by multiple partners, including: Department of Health and Social Care, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Natural England, NHS England and NHS Improvement, Public Health England, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, National Academy for Social Prescribing and Sport England.
As part of the project, we invited integrated care systems (ICSs) and sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) leads to submit an expression of interest (EOI) to become a test and learn site for the project. The successful sites were announced at the end of 2020. They are:
- Humber Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership
- South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System
- Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Integrated Care System
- Joined Up Care Derbyshire Integrated Care System
- Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership
- Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership
- Healthier Together Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care System
You can read the press notice announcing the final seven sites.