The general practice will try prescribing pot PLANTS instead of pills for patients suffering from depression, anxiety and loneliness
- Cornbrook Medical Practice, in downtown Hulme, is behind the move
- The pilot of general practice is the latest example of social prescription
- Studies show that gardening is good for mental health because nature is recovering
Taking care of a plant, thinking about watering it and looking carefully for the first green shoot or opening bud is one of the simple pleasures of life.
This may explain why a general practice in Manchester is set to prescribe pot plants instead of antidepressants for some of its patients.
A new schedule is the treatment of anxiety, depression and loneliness by encouraging people to start gardening.
It is the latest example of social prescription, where doctors send people to clubs and ballroom lessons instead of the pharmacy for pills.
Cornbrook Medical Practice, in downtown Hulme, is considered the first general practice in the country to send patients home to grow their own vegetables
Monty Don, the presenter of Gardener’s World who fought against depression, talked about the pleasure of gardening and how ‘the first thing I do is go outside’.
Potted plants, for those in cities that do not have gardens, can help to take advantage of some of the same effects as creating earth.
Cornbrook Medical Practice, in downtown Hulme, is considered the first general practice in the country that sends patients home to grow their own vegetables or with pots of herbs.
Patients struggling with a bad mood are likely to take care of the plant before being brought back to the surgery for transfer to a communal garden.
This gives people the opportunity to participate in further gardening and social activities.
Augusta Ward, a medical secretary at the practice, said: ‘The plants that we are going to give people are mainly herbs – things like lemon balm and catnip, all of which have remarkable properties.
Patients struggling with a bad mood are likely to take care of the plant before being brought back to the surgery for transfer to a communal garden
WHAT IS SOCIAL PRESCRIPTION?
The NHS announced in January that it would hire up to 1,000 “social prescribers” to refer patients to art classes and ballroom dancing.
They work from general practice and help patients to tackle such ‘plagues of modern life’ such as loneliness, alcoholism and depression.
Their recruitment is part of a commitment to social prescription by health secretary Matt Hancock and NHS England.
Social prescribing includes any activity or support service ranging from history lessons, chess clubs, debt counseling advice or volunteering.
The costs will be borne by the community and volunteer groups offering classes, many of which receive grants from the NHS. There may also be a small reimbursement for patients to cover basic costs.
NHS England claims that the scheme will save money by reducing the number of GP appointments and reducing the amount of prescribed medication.
‘Something to take care of has so many benefits for people, especially those who may not have a garden or can have pets.
“The plant is then a reason to return to the operation and participate in all other activities in our garden and make new friends.”
The idea is supported by Manchester 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 such as cauliflower, broccoli and kale.
Dr. Philippa James, one of the surgery’s general practitioners, said: “I have seen our patients relax in the garden and then become involved in wider events such as litter picking, all of which contribute to pride in our area.
“There is now a lot of evidence about how mood can improve two hours a week in a green space, and that also has physical, mental and emotional benefits … That is something we should use.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has initiated social prescribing amid concerns that people use too much medicine when half of the GP appointments concern non-physical problems.
There are indications that gardening is good for mental health, because nature is recovering and growing plants bring people together.
Dr. Ruth Bromley, general practitioner and chairman of Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, a partnership between the Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group and the Manchester City Council, added: “So many things that keep people happy and healthy are not medical.
“That’s why ideas like these are so incredibly effective, building on what’s best for supporting our communities and patients around where they live.”