GP practice will trial prescribing pot PLANTS instead of pills for patients suffering from depression, anxiety and loneliness
- Cornbrook Medical Practice, in the inner-city area of Hulme, is behind the move
- The pilot scheme by the GP practice is the latest example of social prescribing
- Studies show gardening is good for mental health because nature is restorative
Tending a plant, remembering to water it and watching carefully for the first green shoot or opening bud is one of life’s simple joys.
This may explain why a GP practice in Manchester is set to prescribe pot plants instead of antidepressants for some of its patients.
A new scheme is treating anxiety, depression and loneliness by encouraging people to take up gardening.
It is the latest example of social prescribing, which sees doctors send people to exercise clubs and ballroom-dancing classes instead of to the chemist for pills.
This may explain why a GP practice in Manchester is set to prescribe pot plants instead of antidepressants for some of its patients
Monty Don, the Gardener’s World presenter who has battled depression, has spoken of the pleasure of gardening and how ‘the first thing I do is get outside’.
Pot plants, for those in cities who do not have gardens, could help to harness some of the same effects as putting spade to soil.
Cornbrook Medical Practice, in the inner-city area of Hulme, is believed to be the first GP practice in the country sending patients home to grow their own vegetables or with pots of herbs.
Patients struggling with low mood are likely to care for the plant before bringing it back to the surgery for transfer into a communal garden.
This gives people the opportunity to join in with further gardening and social activities.
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.
WHAT IS SOCIAL PRESCRIBING?
The NHS announced in January that it would hire up to 1,000 ‘social prescribers’ to refer patients to art classes and ballroom dancing lessons.
Working from GP surgeries, they will help patients tackle such ‘scourges of modern life’ as loneliness, alcoholism and depression.
Their recruitment is part of a drive towards social prescribing by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and NHS England.
Social prescribing involves any activity or support service ranging from history classes, chess clubs, debt counselling advice or volunteering schemes.
The cost will be met by the community and voluntary groups offering classes, many of which receive subsidies from the NHS. There may also be a small fee for patients to cover basic costs.
NHS England claims the scheme will save money by reducing the number of GP appointments and cutting the amount of medication being 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 idea is being supported by Manchester’s health commissioners, and many plants have been donated or 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.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has led a drive towards social prescribing amid concerns that people are taking too many medicines when half of GP appointments are for non-physical issues.
Evidence suggests gardening is good for mental health because nature is restorative and growing plants brings people together.
Dr Ruth Bromley, GP and chair of Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, a partnership between Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group and Manchester City Council, 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.’