Written by Max Thrower
A GP practice in Manchester is introducing a scheme to tackle loneliness, anxiety and depression by prescribing potted plants.
The idea originated in Hulme, Manchester at the Cornbrook Medical Practice and is backed by the city's health commissioners, who are trying to promote community support to improve wellbeing across Manchester.
Dr Philippa James, on the surgery’s GPs, said: “I’ve seen how our patients relax in the garden – and how they then get involved in wider events like picking litter, which all adds to pride in our area.
'There’s a lot of evidence now about how two hours a week in a green space can lift mood – and then that too has physical, mental and emotional benefits. That’s something we need to harness.'
In practice, patients will be given a potted plant to look after, to be brought back and transferred into a communal garden. This is to be in conjunction with conventional methods. Many of the practice's patients live in flats and may not have access to any outside greenery.
'The plants we will be giving people are mainly herbs – things like lemon balm and catmint, which all have mindful qualities.' Said Augusta Ward, a medical secretary at Cornbrook (pictured above).
Lemon Balm will be one of the plants prescribed.
'Having something to care for brings so many benefits to people – especially for those who may not have a garden or be able to have pets. The plant is then a reason to come back to the surgery, and get involved in all the other activities in our garden and make new friends.'
The scheme is thought to be the first of its kind in the country, however, similar referral schemes have already begun across the country. For example, Sydenham Garden, currently take GP referrals for their therapeutic gardening sessions and, according to The Guardian, received 313 patient referrals from health professionals between 2017 and 2018.
This form of 'social prescribing' may become more common as medical professionals gain a deeper understanding of the socioeconomic factors affecting people's health.