GPs should be able to prescribe gardening for patients with conditions such as heart disease and dementia, a think-tank has recommended.
The King’s Fund report, which reviewed a series of qualitative and quantitative studies, concluded that CCGs should ‘include gardening as one of many opportunities for patients in social prescribing projects’ and ‘explore the case for reciprocal gardening schemes in their localities’ together with councils and charities.
The report outlined how gardening can improve health across the ages and in specific cases such as mental health, long-term conditions and end-of-life care. Studies showed that gardening improved health for patients with heart disease and cancer and reduced agitation and improved sleep for patients with dementia.
It even claimed that prescribing gardening can be a way of reducing pressures on GP time because going outdoors improved mental health issues and wellbeing, reducing the need for GP visits.
The report said: ‘Increasing people’s exposure to, and use of, green spaces has been linked to long-term reductions in overall reported health problems (including heart disease, cancer and musculoskeletal conditions), it has also been linked to reduced levels of obesity and high physical activity, and higher self-rated mental health…
’Estimates suggest that up to 20% of general practitioners’ time is spent on problems with social causes… [Gardening] may also therefore be a way to manage increasing demands on the NHS, including pressures on GPs’ time.’
It highlighted, as a positive example, the south London scheme which has seen 11 GP practices turn their outdoor space into vegetable patches for patients.