A Natural Health Service (C) Penny Dixie (1)

20 July 2023

Ricardo research for new report proves nature-based health projects save the NHS time and money

Nature-based health and wellbeing programmes could save hundreds of millions of pounds each year and reduce society’s reliance on the NHS, according to a new report by The Wildlife Trusts, which features economic research undertaken by Ricardo.


New analysis published today: A Natural Health Service: Improving Lives and Saving Money found that green prescribing can save more in healthcare costs than the price of running a green prescribing scheme.


Green prescribing is an evidence-based pillar of social prescribing that harnesses the health, wellbeing, and social benefits of spending time in nature. It enables GPs and other health care practitioners to refer people to nature-based programmes to improve physical and mental health.


The new research, undertaken by Ricardo and The Institute of Occupational Medicine, analysed five Wildlife Trusts programmes to see how they benefited the NHS.


If similar programmes to those assessed were offered to all people likely to take them up – estimated at 1.2 million people – it could realistically result in gross annual cost savings of 635.6 million GBP.


Dom Higgins, head of health and education at The Wildlife Trusts said: “This new research proves the immense value of nature-based projects for improving individual health and helping to ease the burden on the NHS. Nature is an essential part of health and social care, but we are not maximising that potential. Green prescribing works and the more we can develop these kinds of programmes, the greater the benefit to society.”


Dr Amir Khan, NHS doctor and vice-president of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “What excites me about this research is that it shows the potential of Wildlife Trusts programmes to work alongside and reduce reliance on NHS services. Programmes that tackle some of the causes of preventable illnesses: social isolation that can lead to feelings of loneliness or depression, physical inactivity – which is linked to musculoskeletal problems, and a lack of skills or prospects leading to economic inactivity.  The Wildlife Trusts’ programmes can shoulder some of the burden of ‘mainstream’ NHS services, and they should be available to all health professionals, to refer patients to, where appropriate.”




Photograph courtesy of Penny Dixie


Download the Wildlife Trusts' press release: A Natural Health Service - improving lives and saving money