The NHS Forest, Incredible Edible Towns and the Yorkshire Ambulance Service are partnering to increase the number of orchards planted on healthcare estates and engaging the community in creating, maintaining and using these edible greenspaces for a healthier future! The NHS Forest is a national project planting trees on healthcare estates and encouraging the staff, patients and local community to utilise their NHS Forests for gentle exercise, rest and relaxation.
The NHS Forest is encouraging practitioners to provide land to plant fruit and vegetables (see cherry and apple trees at Todmorden Health centre ( http://www.nhsforest.org/incredible-edible-todmorden-healthcare-centre), engaging their staff and patients with constructing and maintaining these areas. There are already good examples of GPs who prescribe patients with diabetes, weight and blood pressure issues participation in conservation activities through local schemes - and we want to see this available everywhere!
Other ideas for engagement include creating a herb walk or food route in the town centre and encouraging staff, patients and the local community to take part in “food walks” learning more about healthy lifestyles whilst engaging in gentle exercise. GP surgeries will take part in herb walks/ food routes that are organised by the Incredible Edible partnerships in their town and will promote these walks to their patients by, for example, displaying maps of the edible points of interest in the waiting room of their surgery and prescribing exercise.
The outcome of the partnership between Incredible Edible Towns, the NHS Forest and Yorkshire Ambulance Service will be to create an increasing number of orchards and other edible spaces on healthcare estates throughout the UK engaging staff, patients and the local community in planting and using these greenspaces. This will also link into the edible planting created in the Incredible Edible towns enabling a green healthy route to be created for all to use and will result in healthier lifestyles and local food for the whole community.
We would like to spread the word about the NHS Forest project and encourage as many GPs and their practices to be involved as possible. Being involved in the NHS Forest shouldn’t create too much additional work and/ or constraints on financial resources - we have lots of ways in which to overcome these challenges. Do let me know if you would like to sign up your healthcare centre and also if you have any good ideas as to how we can engage more GPs.