Prescribing nature-based activities could lead to fewer GP appointments and provides value for money, a new report has concluded.
Researchers at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Essex undertook a three-year evaluation on behalf of The Wildlife Trusts, looking at the social value of prescribing nature-based activities.
It found there was £8.50 return for every £1 invested for those who took part in a nature conservation volunteering programme used to tackle physical inactivity or loneliness.
There was also a £6.88 return for more specialised programmes designed to improve mental, physical and social wellbeing, which often cost more to run.
Dr Amir Khan, a Bradford GP and health ambassador for The Wildlife Trust said nature-based prescribing would have a ‘knock-on’ effect in practices and could lead to fewer appointments.
He said: ‘There is a clear need to invest in nature-based services so that more people can benefit. If more people could access nature programmes, I believe that we would see a knock-on effect in our GP surgeries, with fewer people attending for help with preventable or social problems arising from being cut off from others, not getting active or having a purpose.’
The report said: ‘Social return on investment (SROI) allows an organisation to quantify the value they are providing for the communities they work with. The SROI tool provides guidance for allocating a financial value to a wide range of outcomes even if they were not originally measured in financial terms.
‘A return of £6.88 for every £1 invested in programmes that are designed to improve mental, physical and social wellbeing is significant. It strengthens the argument for “nature on prescription” to be standard practice for GPs and NHS mental health providers, supported by specifically allocated NHS funding.’