NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

'Nature' being prescribed by GPs in Shetland

Driftwood
Image caption Collecting driftwood is among the ideas being prescribed by GPs in Shetland

Nature prescriptions such as picking up driftwood from a beach are being offered by GPs in Shetland in what is believed to be a UK first.

NHS Shetland and RSPB Scotland have teamed up for the pioneering initiative.

Listening to birdsong and taking a walk are among the other ideas being suggested to patients.

It is hoped it could help tackle a range of conditions such as high blood pressure and anxiety.

It has been trialled at the Scalloway surgery, and is now being rolled out to all 10 GP practices across Shetland.

Image copyright Chris Gomersall/RSPB
Image caption Lapwing calls can be heard in Shetland

Leaflets have been produced, and a calendar of seasonal activities using local knowledge.

The leaflet will be handed out at each doctor's discretion.

'Natural wonders'

Karen MacKelvie, a community engagement officer for RSPB Scotland, said: "There is overwhelming evidence that nature has health benefits for body and mind.

"Shetland is 'stappit fu' (stuffed full) of natural wonders. Whenever you open your front door you can hear or see some kind of natural delight - be it a gull or a lapwing calling or the roll of a heathery hill.

"However, despite many doctors using the outdoors as a resource to combat ill-health, far fewer recommend the same strategy to their patients.

"So, we saw an opportunity to design a leaflet that helps doctors describe the health benefits of nature and provides plenty of local ideas to help doctors fire-up their patients' imaginations and get them outdoors."

Image copyright PA

Dr Chloe Evans, a GP at Scalloway Health Centre, said: "I want to take part because the project provides a structured way for patients to access nature as part of a non-drug approach to health problems."

Lauren Peterson, health improvement practitioner for NHS Shetland, said: "Through the Nature Prescriptions project GPs and nurses can explain and promote the many benefits which being outdoors can have on physical and mental wellbeing."