The NHS Forest project is set to grow as we prepare to plant 150,000 additional trees on NHS sites

We will be supplying trees for free to NHS locations across England from October 2023 to March 2025. This is made possible by the generous support from the Nature for Climate Fund managed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The project will also benefit from oversight by the Forestry Commission.

The NHS Forest aims to create around an extra 94 hectares of vital tree coverage. This adds to the 100,000 trees we’ve planted since the project launched in 2009. The project aligns with the UK Government’s climate strategy, which commits to planting new woodlands at the target rate of 30,000 hectares per year by 2025. 

NHS Forest supports community health and the environment

From biodiversity to air pollution, trees provide remarkable benefits to both people and wildlife. Planting trees on healthcare sites creates better places to live and work. Trees provide privacy and seclusion for staff and patients, help to cool buildings in hot summers and provide cleaner air. The also create habitats for native wildlife and store carbon. Trees play a vital role in saving lives and valuable NHS resources by improving air quality and improving population health. The total cost to the NHS and social care system of caring for people affected by air pollutants between 2017 and 2025 will reach an estimated £1.6 billion. By planting trees and woodlands, the NHS estate can play a key role in disease prevention.

Defra Forestry Minister, Trudy Harrison said: “We are proud to be supporting the planting of 150,000 trees at NHS sites across England through our Nature for Climate Fund, which will increase access to nature within our communities.

“These new trees will help make the NHS estate be a greener and healthier place for staff and patients alike, as well as helping moderate temperatures, reduce air pollution and reduce the risk of surface water flooding.”

Trees in the grounds of Bethlem Royal Hospital, Southeast London
Trees in the grounds of Bethlem Royal Hospital, Southeast London

Trees to tackle health inequalities

Dr Miriam Dobson, Project and Evidence Lead for Trees and Woodlands at the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, explained more: “We’re excited to start on this ambitious project to plant an additional 150,000 trees on NHS sites. Trees and woodlands are a crucial tool in helping to improve our environment. We urgently need to maintain, develop and connect trees and woodlands, particularly in areas with the greatest health inequalities. The NHS estate is a critical asset in achieving this vision. By focusing our efforts on strategic planting, we can maximise this positive impact. 

“The NHS Forest project supports sites not just with free trees, but also important expert advice on where to plant trees, which trees to plant and how to maintain them. This is a key part of the process. We want to see these trees survive and thrive and provide the greatest benefit to the communities around them.”

Green space supports NHS staff wellbeing

The impact of green spaces on staff wellbeing is also important. NHS staff sickness rates are increasing, which is leading to more money being spent on emergency staff cover. Access to green space can help mitigate this. Recent research published by Business in the Community found employees with a view of nature take 23% less sick leave.

The NHS Forest project has already made a positive, genuine difference to sites across the UK. Ginnie Abubakar, Cancer Support and Information Services Manager at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, shared her experience: “Since we started working with the NHS Forest project, there has been fantastic engagement on site. We’ve seen patients walking through our woodland walkway, taking time to sit and look at the environment and that’s been amazing. I’ve also had more staff than ever before suggesting meeting outside which has had a great effect on staff wellbeing and morale. Our hope is to get everyone involved in creating a greener future and making a positive impact on the wellbeing of our communities.”

We invite NHS sites to join the NHS Forest project and register to receive free trees. Visit our registration page to get started.

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