It’s a good idea to develop a plan to map out actions that can be taken to improve biodiversity on your healthcare site.
Sites should take into consideration local nature recovery strategies, species conservation strategies and protected site strategies when making their plans. The biodiversity plan can form part of a trust’s Green Plan.
The NHS Forest can help
- Tree planting – there is substantial evidence that trees improve biodiversity, especially when planted in groups. The NHS Forest programme can supply free trees for NHS sites in England thanks to funding from Defra through the Nature for Climate Fund and support from the Forestry Commission. Register your interest.
- Ecological advice – the NHS Forest programme has some capacity to supply specialist ecological advice to NHS sites in England. This is funded by Defra through the Trees Call to Action Fund. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- NHS Forest network – we can offer access to a network of other sites who are developing new and innovative ways to develop green space for biodiversity and health. The NHS Forest website is also full of useful information about how to improve green space for biodiversity. In addition to the NHS Forest network there is also the Green Space for Health network.
- Green Space for Health courses – the NHS Forest programme is run by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare who offer a range of courses including the Green Space for Health course.
- Ideas for biodiversity – use our tried and tested ideas below to create a biodiversity duty plan for your healthcare site.
How to create a biodiversity duty plan
We have put together some ideas for creating a biodiversity plan for healthcare sites with examples of actions you might want to consider on your site. The list of actions is not exhaustive but creates a starting point for thinking about how to improve biodiversity on your site. We also suggest following the format recommended by the government.
Examples of actions for healthcare sites to include in a biodiversity plan
We have grouped these actions into four main areas.
Develop a co-ordinated strategic approach to managing natural capital assets.
- Commission a biodiversity, climate change and nature-based health benefits audit of all sites to establish baseline spatial register of natural capital assets. This can then be used measure the effectiveness of any changes as well as providing data on metrics such as estimated carbon sequestration. Natural England’s biodiversity metric may be useful here.
- Review and update Grounds Maintenance specifications to incorporate targets which improve ecological value of green space.
Improve the quality and quantity of green space
- Replace low biodiversity habitats such as amenity grassland, common across the estate, with more valuable habitats. The quickest win is to introduce more relaxed mowing regimes to encourage wildflowers and insects.
- Conduct mass planting of pollinator friendly spring bulbs in grassland areas and allow to multiply and naturalize.
- When annual and ornamental planting needs replacing, plant perennial pollinator attracting species.
- When creating or refurbishing courtyard gardens, follow Kings Fund Environmental assessment tool for health and care settings which advocates use of wildlife friendly design principles.
- Reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides where possible.
- Install nesting boxes for birds and solitary bees
- Consider a range of green space options such as green walls, allotments or wild areas.
- Increase areas of woodland, individual trees, and hedges.
- Select native tree species which support biodiversity and are effective at carbon sequestration.
Connect with surrounding green infrastructure
- Plant mixed native hedges along roads and around car parks to mitigate emissions/noise from vehicles and provide wildlife corridors.
- Mitigate adverse impacts on biodiversity associated with the refurbishment of existing buildings.
- Reduce the area of sealed surfaces i.e., converting internal courtyards into community gardens.
- Create new natural capital assets when sites are renovated, include in masterplans i.e., use of sustainable urban drainage systems which provide water-based habitats, reduce local flood risk, enable rainwater harvesting and cut wastewater costs.
- Connect habitats and create networks, particularly to habitats of strategic importance i.e.: continuous tree cover which is also beneficial for carbon sequestration and air quality.
- Create new woodlands and wildlife corridors at the edges of sites where they link to the wider open spaces network.
- Improve connectedness of green space by working in partnership with neighbouring landowners and stakeholders such as local councils
Encourage more nature-based health activities plan
- Establish site as an open and accessible network of green spaces and facilities that can be used by staff, patients, visitors, and local communities.
- Develop or update walking routes and maps in conjunction with local partners.
- Improve signage for walking opportunities, linking these with larger routes and the wider green network.
- Promote and use green spaces to support the health and wellbeing of our staff, patients, and local communities.
- Work in conjunction with Wellbeing team and community partners to develop a business case for delivering a social green prescribing programme which provides nature-based health interventions such as therapeutic gardening, woodland volunteering, and walking activities to improve mental and physical wellbeing.
- Publicise findings from natural capital assessment and regularly communicate potential use of green space with staff through wellbeing programme.
For more information on the biodiversity plans visit the UK government website.