Our Bee Healthy project shows that local health centres with limited space can contribute to nature recovery. The project worked with GP surgeries in Oxfordshire to create borders with nectar-rich, herbaceous perennials. These are attractive to bumblebees and other pollinators, as well as benefitting patients, staff and visitors.

We developed a Bee Healthy Project Guide to share our experiences of developing these borders. The guide provides practical information for community organisations such as NHS health centres, community centres, schools, places of worship and others that wish to create their own Bee Healthy plant borders. 

Why do bumblebees need our help?

Bumblebees are an essential part of our ecosystem and without them we cannot grow the crops we need to support our food chains. Worldwide, more than 75% of the leading crop species we consume depend directly or indirectly on pollinators.1 This means that we need pollinators for growing crops such as almonds, beans, berries, nuts, coffee and many more.2

Major increases in the demand for cheap and unblemished crops, the increased use of pesticides, loss of habitat and climate change are all contributing to the decline in bumblebee populations.3 In the UK alone, during the 20th century two bumblebee species went extinct with another eight species experiencing large scale declines.4

How has the Bee Healthy project helped?

In autumn 2019, Bee Healthy created pollinator-friendly green spaces at Summertown Health Centre and St. Bartholomew’s Medical Centre in Oxford and Windrush Medical Practice in Witney, Oxfordshire. Each green space was created with around 15 plant species, chosen to spread flowering periods across the seasons. Early analysis showed positive results in terms of attracting pollinators. The seven most common bumblebee species were detected at these sites as well as honeybees, butterflies, moths, solitary bees and beetles. The Bee Healthy gardens are an inspiring example of how small, urban green spaces can expand the availability of food for pollinators.

Planting for Bee Healthy project at Windrish Medical Practice. Photo: Roselle Chapman, Wild Oxfordshire. All rights reserved.
Planting for Bee Healthy project at Windrish Medical Practice. Photo: Roselle Chapman, Wild Oxfordshire. All rights reserved.
Bee Healthy planter at St. Bartholomew’s Medical Centre, Oxford
Bee Healthy planter at St. Bartholomew’s Medical Centre, Oxford. All rights reserved.

The Bee Healthy gardens have also been important for the wellbeing of humans. Specifically, these spaces have been very popular among NHS staff working during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bee garden is a source of great enjoyment every morning when we come into the surgery. Lots of people have commented on the flowers appearing. Especially in these strange times, it provides a nice distraction and a reminder of the natural world, oblivious to it all.”

GP, Summertown Health Centre

“We’re chuffed to be part of the project. We wanted to get involved because we are very conscious of bees and want to do all we can to support them. We have a little garden at the front and thought it would be a great opportunity.”

Katherine Blaze, Operations Manager at Summertown Health Centre

“We don’t have a garden that we can sit in, but we have a lot of plants and the patients are really interested in it all. We’re delighted to have been chosen to take part.”

Shirley Watts, Facilities Manager at Windrush Medical Practice

Bee Healthy was developed as a partnership between the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment and Wild Oxfordshire. It was supported by the Postcode Local Trust, a grant giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.


1. Klatt et al. 2014

2. ‘Bees and Pollinators: A Commonwealth Concern’, 2015

3. Marinelli, 2017 and ‘Why Bumblebees Need Our Help’, n.d.

4. ‘Why Bumblebees Need Our Help’, n.d.

Full references can be found in the Bee Healthy Project Guide.

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