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GP practices turn outdoor space into vegetable patches for patients

GPs in Lambeth have made the headlines of a national newspaper after turning their practices’ outdoor space into vegetable gardens used to treat patients.

The Guardian has picked up on the scheme under which socially isolated patients who are lonely, have a long-term condition or mental health problem can be referred to grow fruit and vegetables.

The £160,000 scheme, run out of 11 practices is the south London borough since 2013, funded by NHS Lambeth CCG and Lambeth Council, aims to improve both physical and mental health of patients who are referred to it.

An added bonus, in an area where food bank usage is high, is that the patients get to eat everything they produce. The co-op has also announced plans to sell the produce at a stall in the restaurant of King’s College Hospital.

Most of the participants are older patients, and over 200 have been involved in the service altogether, although there are far fewer regulars with most turning up only when the weather is good.

Dr David Wickstead, a GP partner at one of the practices involved, told the paper: ‘It’s good for us [doctors], because the danger with mental health patients is that you stick to medication – changing it, changing the dosage, trying a new therapy and so on. So the fact that we have something else with a different approach is fantastic.’

Dr Raj Mitra, another GP partner involved in the service, said it also helped reduce GP attendances.

He said: ‘The people who come here to garden see us less often.’