We are delighted to announce that the NHS Forest now has more than 300 healthcare sites, spread right across the UK.
In the 13 years since the NHS Forest was founded by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, it has not just grown, it has evolved considerably. What launched as a low-key tree planting project is now a far-reaching green space programme, with a hugely diverse membership, stretching from Northern Ireland to Guernsey, and from Inverness to Cornwall. Among our members, we count vast rural hospital sites with their own woodlands, and tiny inner city GP surgeries and ambulance stations.
We have been able to reach this milestone thanks to the support of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP). To mark their 70th anniversary this year, they are offering up to 1,000 of their members the opportunity to recieve an NHS Forest tree. GPs can sign up to the NHS Forest to receive a native bird cherry tree, which they will be able to plant on their grounds this coming winter.
Dr Fran Cundill, a GP in North Sheffield and Sustainability Lead at the RCGP’s South Yorkshire and North Trent faculty, described the RCGP partnership with the NHS Forest as “a fantastic way to leave a legacy for the next 70 years.” It is hoped that individual sites will plan planting events to raise awareness of the tree planting activity and involve members of the practice.
Dr Cundill, who is also the Chair of South Yorkshire Greener Practice, explained why she came up with tree planting as a meaningful way to celebrate the anniversary:
“We know that the climate crisis impacts on our health and that the healthcare service contributes to the climate crisis. Planting trees in each faculty really demonstrates how seriously RCGP are taking this and how supportive they are of members who come up with innovative ideas to support the sustainability agenda.”
The trees will be used to promote wider discussion of the need for green space, the impacts of biodiversity on health, and ways that the surgeries can use their outdoor space to provide much needed interactions with nature for their patients.
Dr Cundill adds, “I work in a very deprived area of Sheffield and I see, day to day, the impacts of a lack of green spaces, such as increased air pollution. To have a cherry tree in our surgery grounds, blossoming in spring, would just be really lovely for patients and for staff.”
The GP surgeries join our thriving network of healthcare sites that have embraced green space on their land, for the benefits of patients, staff and the wider community. Our members consistently surprise us with their creativity, drive and enthusiasm, tailoring each green space project to their own unique locations and needs.
Some of the most innovative green space and health initiatives over the years have included:
- A GP cooperative in a built-up South London borough, which has established food growing spaces in the most unlikely locations, from alleyways to restaurant gardens. These are used by patients and volunteers with chronic physical and mental health conditions, and have created a supportive network and a space to exchange knowledge, skills and encouragement.
- A site-wide staff gardening competition, launched by our Nature Recovery Ranger in a cancer hospital. Over 100 staff participated in the initiative to green little patches outside their wards and offices, which has transformed around 24 run-down and unloved spaces into thriving flower beds, wildlife gardens and green seating areas, where staff love to gather to chat, garden and watch the birds.
- Freeman Hospital’s Green Gym in Newcastle, in which staff can get involved in local conservation work, from clearing the garden of a historic building to planting trees and litter picking. The sessions have been a way for staff to enjoy gentle exercise, learn about conservation and ecology, and work alongside colleagues they might never have spoken to before.
- New member Cae Felin has launched a community-supported agriculture project on land leased by a hospital in South Wales. The farm will provide fruit and veg boxes to members, and support wellbeing, biodiversity and social prescribing initiatives for hospital staff, patients and residents; the first harvest will take place in 2023.
We’d like to congratulate RCGP on their 70th anniversary, and we are thrilled to welcome these new members to our biodiverse and fast-growing healthcare forest.
Are you a GP surgery who would like to plant a bird cherry tree with RCGP? Learn more and sign up on their website.
Would you like to join our network of healthcare sites? Register here.