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GPs should prescribe 'forest bathing' on NHS, says charity

GPs should prescribe 'forest bathing' and other nature-based activities to help patients’ mental and physical wellbeing, according to a conservation charity.

The Woodland Trust has suggested that walking amongst trees and practising mindfulness in nature should be part of a number of solutions GPs offer to patients as part of social prescribing.

The charity has said getting outside can help with stress and low mood and amongst its recommended nature-based activities is the Japanese tradition of 'forest bathing' - or shinrin-yoku - which was initiated in the 1980s as a way to combat work-related burnout and involves taking relaxing walks in the woods.

According to Stuart Dainton, head of innovation at the Woodland Trust, doctors should direct their patients to the charity's 1,000 woodland sites across the UK as a form of social prescribing.

He said: ‘Nature-based solutions such as taking time out and walking amongst trees and green space can be part of the solution to help with our physical and mental wellbeing.

'The scientific evidence base is growing on the benefits of our natural environment and it is so important to protect. Linking to social prescribing activities that encompass woods and trees to help gain the benefits from being outside in nature could be part of a portfolio of solutions 

The NHS long-term plan outlined earlier this year that networks will be supported by 1,000 social prescribers by April 2021.

Last year, Matt Hancock promised to put £4.5m towards GP social prescribing.

Researchers have found that a patient's trust in their GP is crucial to the uptake in social prescribing programmes.

Readers' comments (9)

  • please-delete-this-fucking-profile-i-cant-delete-it-in-my-account-settings

    a lovely idea, i love the woodland trust and i love trees. isn't it great we live in a country where everybody loves the NHS and everybody loves the idea of having a free GP
    problem is these same lovely people, all full of love for their lovely free GP and lovely free NHS simply can't be arsed to pay for it

    the hypocrisy of your average NHS loving british free loader is really starting to stick in
    my throat.

    nothing to do specifically with the woodland trust, like i said i love these guys, but i bet their books balance and who doesn't love a tree ....or a free GP

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  • Are you banned from walking in the woods without a prescription? Prescribing toilet roll for dirty backsides? Cuddles for crying kids?

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  • National Hopeless Service

    I like Penguins with their funny little waddle and amusing sliding on the snow. I will prescribe Penguins not trees.

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  • i find if i go outside for a walk i inevitably find nature, parkland, trees etc etc etc. even in a big city. it just involves getting off my backside first. no prescription needed, just a bit of energy and a good pair of walking shoes - mine were a second hand donation so even includes a bit of recycling. I find if you make people think about how to sort out their own issues and then do it creates a much more rounded and confident human individual, who becomes a hard worker who invests in their well being and environment. The more you spoon feed the less able you make some one. The best advice for some people is to tell them to sort it out themselves, ask for advice where needed and then tell them to get on with it. it worked during the war, its the process that has maintained the NHS up till now. Chronic Interference and micro management will lead to chronic anxiety and inertia creating a snowflake generation who are obese and will die before their parents. As is starting to happen now. sad

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  • Those that can't do teach. When professionals loses their self respect, everyone else who feel they know better starts telling them what to do. They are perfectly able to prescribe the trees themselves. I'll prescribe my medicines thank you. My patients see me for these, not trees.

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  • Evidence based medicine anyone?
    50% of Research in the last 50 years remains unpublished due to results not suiting research funders.
    Appalling? Yes- totally undermines evidence through publication bias.
    Hug that tree you just walked by. Good luck!

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  • Trees 🌲 are lovely and so are penguins (and otters).

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  • I like formula 1 with it's revving engines and carbon footprint.
    Can I prescribe formula 1?
    (prob cheaper than neocate)

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  • Take 2 trees pr stat

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