Is a project conceived by The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare. For the past three years CSH has been developing the NHS Forest, a project aimed at improving the health of patients, staff and near by communities through increasing access to green space on or near to NHS land and promoting and supporting the planting of more trees on healthcare sites across the country. Outer Space is the follow up programme which aims to focus on engaging the potential beneficiaries of these spaces through programmes of activities and the chance to become involved in the future management and development of the sites through the establishment of local community stakeholder groups. Each site is different and will have different opportunities but the unifying theme is the increased understanding of how access to green spaces and natural settings benefits health and wellbeing. The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare has secured funding under Natural England’s, Big Lottery supported “Access to Nature” grants scheme and is working with NHS Trusts on sites at Coventry University Hospital and St Catherine’s Hospital Doncaster. The funding is for project work through to the summer of 2013 which will improve access and amenities and develop activities which provide opportunities for participation in skills development, arts and crafts and a range of green health benefits. The on-site project work will be led by our partners BTCV and overseen by steering groups made up from representatives of the major stakeholders on each site.
At University Hospital Coventry there is an existing wetland area known as The Swales which forms part of the surface water drainage system for this new build hospital site, this area has grown to be a very good natural habitat with some simple mown paths around the pools. The site borders and drains into the River Sowe and benefits from this and its location at the edge of the hospital grounds by being a relatively peaceful spot. The initial work here will be around improvements to the access, taking on the general seasonal maintenance, the installation of benches and signage and a wildlife and species survey which will involve local schools and community groups. BTCV will promote the project in the local area and develop further opportunities for individual and group participation and CSH will be using its expertise around the health benefits of green space to develop the therapeutic potential of the space with staff and patient groups. The project was introduced on site at this autumn's NHS Forest Conference and participants had the chance to walk through the space and inspect some of the new trees being planted to commemorate the event.
St Catherine’ Hospital in Doncaster is set in the grounds and parkland of a former private estate with the old house and outbuildings at its heart. The Outer Space site centres on a belt of mature woodland and the first task has been to improve the access, requiring some fairly major path construction which is creating lots of opportunities for practical involvement, skills development and healthy, physical outdoor work. Plans include creating a further access point from the road and providing the possibility of more walking routes into the hospital. The Walled Garden project already running on the site will be linking with the Outer Space activities to provide additional skills development opportunities for its members and bring their existing horticultural knowledge to support the enhancing of the woodland area. The project was officially launched on site at the end of August with a Gala Community Fun day opened by local MP Rosie Winterton at which local visitors were able to participate in woodland walks, mini beast identification, a guess the height of the tree competition and more importantly, sign up as volunteers and become involved in the project's development. The newly formed community group is now meeting regularly and the volunteers are out in the woodland every week working on the new paths and creating further interest in the project through their very visible activity.