Once a TB hospital that prioritised green spaces as an integral part of patient care and treatment, Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, on the outskirts of West London, is once again opening its doors to the out-of-doors for the wellbeing of patients and staff. Large swathes of manicured lawn are being turned to native wildflower meadow in an aim to increase in pollen and insect numbers, and maybe see the return of struggling house martin populations.
In 2021, a secluded area was developed into a ‘Fern Garden’ to provide a space where cancer patients can receive chemotherapy treatment outdoors, surrounded by foliage and the sound of blackbirds and woodpigeons. Patients, staff and visitors can relax in nature along a newly created woodland walkway, winding through gnarled trees and opening out onto a sprawling meadow.
Interpretation signs record the history of this suburban site where continuity with the past is being reaffirmed through the abundance of green spaces projects being delivered and planned. The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH) has encouraged the development and use of these by providing trees for its NHS Forest and a fulltime Nature Recovery Ranger to work with NHS staff, volunteers and patients.
Since March 2021, Karen MacKelvie has been initiating new green spaces projects as well as finding, uncovering and restoring many existing hidden plots scattered around this complex of historical and modern buildings. Her site-wide gardening competition has proved a huge hit, with dozens of staff volunteers competing to look after the flowerbeds, hedgerows, bird feeders and potted plants near their workstations for the sake of both pride and pleasure. These include herbs, vegetables and vibrant, pollen-rich flowers that benefit people and wildlife.
Staff welfare is also being enhanced through wellbeing in nature sessions provided by CSH, which teach methods for using the natural world to counter the stresses of modern life.