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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.