James Foss, a Sustainability Consultant at Ricardo, has helped the London North West University Healthcare (LNWH) NHS Trust secure charity funding to undertake a greenspace transformation programme which will see gardens and green spaces on hospital sites renovated, enhanced and improved.
The programme is one of four projects, all voted for by LNWH National Health Service (NHS) staff, which will share in 1 million GBP donated by the London North West Healthcare (LNWH) Charity to support LNWH Trust in a number of areas, including purchasing equipment and undertaking medical research, which would not normally be funded by the NHS.
Since March 2023, James has been seconded to LNWH Trust as its Green Plan Delivery Lead. In October 2023, staff at the Trust were invited to come up with ideas on how to spend the £1 million GBP fund which had been donated by LNWH Charity. The subsequent Charitable Fund Engagement Initiative elicited 1,300 ideas from staff members. A shortlist of 12 projects was then drawn up with employees voting for their four favourites.
James explains: “The greenspace transformation programme was one of the 12 projects that were voted on, and it received the most votes by a fair margin. Hospitals tend to be cold, concrete giants which were designed in the 1960s and then added to over time, purely to meet clinical needs rather than with any sensibility about how environment can enhance recovery and wellbeing. As a result, hospitals can be intimidating and stressful environments.”
“Healthcare professionals are carers by nature: both for people and the environment. They spend a lot of time at work, often responding to the most stressful and challenging times in their patients’ lives, so they want a really nice place to work that is welcoming for their patients, their families, and their colleagues. We wanted to make our green spaces beautiful so that they could be spaces that the teams truly deserved and enjoyed, in which they could relax, recharge and continue making a difference.”
It is recognised that access to nature has significant positive improvements on patient and staff wellbeing. Currently, work-related stress affected more than 40% of NHS staff in 2020, with studies showing anxiety, depression, stress and other psychiatric illness as leading causes of staff absence across the NHS. On the other hand, access to nature has been associated with lower heart rates and blood pressure, lower negative emotions, higher self-esteem and better mood, shorter post-operative stays and reduced need for analgesic drugs if a patient’s hospital window looks out onto a natural setting.
James added: “The funding suddenly made it possible to address this, and I feel that many staff members at LNWH Trust jumped at the opportunity to vote for positive change. The garden transformation programme will therefore bring positive benefits to patients and staff wellbeing, as well as local biodiversity in line with our Green Plan objectives.”
The greenspace transformation programme, which will be implemented during 2024, will seek to hire a Nature Recovery Ranger through the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH) programme, who will lead on implementation of biodiversity initiatives with a focus to improve staff and patient health and wellbeing. James, as the Green Plan Delivery Lead, in collaboration with Ricardo’s Biodiversity Lead and the LNWH Trust Health and Wellbeing team, will assess the feasibility and social and environmental benefits of introducing interventions at each of the LNWH Trust sites. Initial proposals include renovating the sensory garden at Ealing Hospital to boost staff wellbeing, and the arthritis garden to offer recovering patients and visiting relatives a therapeutic, calming space; and wildflower planting to attract local pollinators. James and his team will be canvassing and engaging with key stakeholders and members of staff on the proposals.
David Jenkins, LNWH Charity Director said: “The competition really caught people’s imagination and we were overwhelmed with suggestions. It empowered staff and gave them a voice about what they think is important and want to see the money spent on.”
As green plan delivery lead and greenspace transformation programme lead, James said: “Learning that our project had gained enough votes to receive charity funding was a very pleasant surprise. At Ricardo, we have a proven track record in providing evidence about the health economic benefit of nature and green prescribing.”
“Access to nature has been shown to make a huge difference to staff and patient wellbeing, with research showing this can lead to lower heart rates, blood pressure, and negative emotions. By renovating our gardens, this funding will allow us to give a much-needed boost to local biodiversity and help LNWH Trust contribute to our ambition of a nature-positive NHS."
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