The NHS Forest held its first annual event to mark the success of its project to plant 1.3m trees across the UK, one for every employee in the NHS, and create a ‘Natural Health Service’.
With 4,400 trees planted so far and over 30 NHS sites engaged in the project, a Green apple award for one of our NHS Forest sites, being mentioned as a case study in the Forestry Section of the National Ecosystems Assessment and praised in the new public health white paper, we have a lot to celebrate! People from existing as much as from potential NHS Forest sites joined in the celebrations which were also be attended by senior figures from the NHS and Forestry organisations.
The day’s festivities included an award ceremony, outdoor activities such as tree planting and a NHS Forest quiz. The following awards were presented by Pam Warhurst, Chair of the Forestry Commission:
- Airedale NHS Trust: Largest number of trees planted for the NHS Forest
- Devon Mental Health Trust: For being the most innovative NHS Forest site
- Mid Essex Services NHS Trust: For the Best Community Engagement in the NHS Forest.
The activities during the event reflected the distinctive nature of the NHS Forest project and got participants thinking about and engaging with healthcare and nature. There were also opportunities for staff from new potential NHS Forest sites how to get involved with the NHS Forest, raise money for it and get the community engaged.
University Hospital, Coventry is very excited about starting its own NHS Forest by planting trees on its estate. The Trust is also part of our lottery funded sister project ‘Outer Space’ which involves a detailed community engagement project on site. The project will focus on hard-to-reach priority groups and people who have a low level of engagement with the natural environment. Through activity days, setting up and running of nature trails, art therapy and story telling on site thousands more people will be able to engage with the green space on the University Hospital grounds.
Andy Hardy, Chief Executive Officer of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust said: “The NHS Forest is a simple but effective idea to improve the environment. As a modern Trust this already fits in with our sustainability plans and our ethos as a responsible citizen and I am looking forward to watching this take shape on site.”
Rachel Stancliffe from The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare said: “The forest will win hearts and minds by connecting NHS staff with a highly visible project to introduce the broader issues of sustainability. It will also link staff, patients and the neighbouring communities with their local green space providing very tangible physical benefits for recreation and physical activity as well as wellbeing and a symbolic connection with the wider environment.”
Ed Macalister-Smith said (Chair South Central LETB, South Central Lead for Clinical Networks Review, ex-CEO NHS Buckinghamshire) "The Conference was inspiring, and showed why the NHS Forest is great for the NHS. It’s good for a healing patient environment, it’s good for staff welfare and relaxation, it’s a great way to start to offset the carbon footprint of the NHS, and it can be strategically useful when planning site developments in the longer term. And the NHS does have land, which with modest charitable fund investment and voluntary input can prove really useful in an organisations relationship with its local community."