A GP practice is harnessing the well-known feelgood effects of greenery and gardening to treat people suffering from anxiety, depression and loneliness.
Instead of sedatives and anti-depressants, patients may get herbs, veg and pot plants to help lift their spirits.
The new scheme – believed to be a first in the country – means patients who may be experiencing low mood could be given a plant to care for before bringing it back to the surgery for transfer into a communal garden.
This then gives patients a chance to join in with further gardening and social activities.
The grassroots idea comes from Cornbrook Medical Practice in inner-city Hulme, where many patients live in flats and may not have access to gardens or greenery.
Augusta Ward, a medical secretary at the practice, said: “The plants we will be giving people are mainly herbs – things like lemon balm and catmint, which all have mindful qualities.
“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 idea is backed by the city’s health commissioners, who want to promote community support or “social prescribing” as one of the holistic ways to improve wellbeing.
Many of the plants for the scheme have been donated or have been funded through the social enterprise group Sow the City.
Plants in the Cornbrook garden range from herbs to tomato plants and vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and kale.
Dr Philippa James, one of 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.”
Dr Ruth Bromley, GP and chair of Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, added: “So much of what keeps people happy and well isn’t medical. That’s why ideas like this one are so wonderfully effective, building on what is best about our communities and supporting patients close to where they live.”
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