Our Nature Recovery Rangers work with NHS partners at healthcare sites across England to improve the quality of green spaces, and to help integrate nature into patient care, staff wellbeing and community engagement. Their aim is to maximise the role that these green spaces play in the prevention of health issues, supporting recovery, and the creation of a healthier environment.  

The pilot project

In spring 2021, we placed three Nature Recovery Rangers at hospital sites in Bristol, Liverpool and London, with support from the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The rangers quickly made an impact by introducing new nature related initiatives of their own and supporting staff to make their existing ideas a reality, by developing green spaces around their sites for environmental and personal wellbeing. 

The rangers are employed and managed by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH), providing a connection to national networks and resources and many opportunities to share ideas and experience with each other and other CSH staff. Their work is overseen on a day-to-day basis by NHS managers at their health sites, ensuring that the rangers’ work is closely tailored to local needs and opportunities, including reaching new sections of their communities and developing the ecological and health value of their sites.

Benefits for staff, patients and the community

Their combination of conservation and engagement skills means that our Nature Recovery Rangers are well qualified to enhance green spaces for both people and nature. By transforming courtyards, rooftops, verges and lawns, they are providing accessible refuges for staff to take breaks surrounded by greenery, and encouraging staff involvement in supporting ecosystems, for example through planting wildflowers and carrying out butterfly surveys. These changes make hospitals better places to work and encourage staff to spend time in the fresh air and sunlight.

Patients are also benefitting from the rangers’ work. For example, Mount Vernon Cancer Centre’s Fern Garden has been designed so that chemotherapy patients have an accessible and sheltered green space to spend time in before appointments, sit with family, and view through the large windows while receiving treatment, for a far more restful and restorative experience. Liverpool’s Broadgreen Hospital has an accessible sensory garden for physical therapy; both projects have been supported by the on-site rangers in their development and patient engagement. 

There is also plenty of scope for encouraging the wider community to engage with these green spaces; NHS hospitals are permanent local landmarks, often with the potential to become green hubs providing access to nature for local residents. For example, with the help of our ranger in Bristol, local school children are learning about wildlife habitats and finding ways to establish these in Southmead Hospital’s extensive grounds.

By working with maintenance staff on their sites, our rangers have also helped to devise sustainable plans for the management of green spaces in a way which enhances biodiversity and user engagement.

Ranger Karen MacKelvie gets staff gardening at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre
Ranger Karen MacKelvie gets staff gardening at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre. Photo: Karen MacKelvie / Centre for Sustainable Healthcare 2021. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).
Ranger Phoebe Webster inspects the bug hotel at Southmead Hospital
Ranger Phoebe Webster inspects the bug hotel at Southmead Hospital. Photo: Vicki Brown / Centre for Sustainable Healthcare 2021. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

See our evaluation report for more details of the impact made by the rangers during their first year.

“With plans in place for more initiatives for our patients (outdoor waiting rooms and weekly woodland wanders, to name just two) and the involvement of our local community, I am excited about the impacts we will continue to be able to validate. The network of rangers provides valuable support to progress the project still further.”

Ginnie Abubakar, Community Engagement Manager at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre

After the pilot

Following the success of the pilot year, we were able to extend the ranger posts at our three original sites; Southmead Hospital in Bristol, Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in outer London, and several health sites in Liverpool. We also recruited two new Nature Recovery Rangers in Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital and at Homerton Hospital in East London, with funding secured locally for each site.

Ranger Fiona Megarrell leads staff to create a new allotment in Liverpool
Ranger Fiona Megarrell leads staff to create a new allotment in Liverpool. Photo: Centre for Sustainable Healthcare 2021. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Where we are now

As the Nature Recovery Ranger programme continues to develop, we are working to ensure widespread, long-term improvements to the role that green space plays in healthcare. Our rangers are working with stakeholders across sites to identify barriers to the use of green space and influence behavioural change through continued learning, evaluation and knowledge sharing. We currently have rangers at Mount Vernon and Liverpool and are making plans for how the programme develops in the future.

Read more about the rangers’ work at Mount Vernon, Southmead, Liverpool, Homerton and Newcastle

Register your interest in the ranger programme and we will send you updates as they become available.

The pilot project was funded by the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund was developed by Defra and its Arm’s-Length Bodies. It is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission.

Green Recovery Challenge Fund logo

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