As a retired GP in Dorset, having for 30 years specialised in helping those with mental health issues and in January 2000 awarded an MBE for this work within my community, I was very aware of the effectiveness of growing in small groups to improve both mental and physical health and how it satisfied all 5 steps to wellbeing”.See King’s Fund evidence
Your Planet Doctors CIC (Community Interest Company), was started in Jan 2020 (CIC in Jan 21) when I suddenly became aware of how vulnerable we could all become to food and water shortages in the future through climate change and destruction of our ecosystems, and how much that would impact on the already poor mental health of our population. When Covid struck, the situation worsened!
I wanted to encourage local GPs and hospital doctors to recommend this approach to their patients through social prescribers, whether anxious or depressed, in pain, chronically sick or suffering from dementia. Your Planet Doctors working alongside Michael French of Grounded Community would contribute, where possible, to provide education and support .
We have networked extensively on zoom through lockdown and now have numerous partners and available land, in certain areas, on which parts of this initiative might take place.
Already, several local GPs, social prescribers and hospital consultants are enthusiastically on board and ready to select patients for this study, should they wish to take part.
Grow Your Own Rainbow Garden
In June 2021, to dovetail with this initiative, at their request and with funding from Abri Housing association, we provided 28 residents of their housing estate in a disadvantaged area of Southbourne with raised beds, soil, plants and gardening tools to begin growing food in their own gardens.
We believe that if this pilot, to include the local schools and other stakeholders, extending for a minimum of 2 years, is managed as skilfully as possible, it has the potential to bring neighbours more closely together, improving both their self worth and resilience to face challenges ahead. From next spring more are joining us.
The project is known as GROW YOUR OWN RAINBOW GARDEN, and will be promoted on a large scale using a rainbow logo, similar to the NHS, but covered in fruit and vegetables.
We believe that a universal offer to all NHS patients, via social prescribing, to be able to access a care farm or community food garden via referral from a health care practitioner, would benefit people’s health and the food and farming sector, while creating savings to health budgets.
The evidence that food growing and farming improves health and wellbeing is clear; not only access to nature, but the process of growing food and being part of a productive system have positive impacts on health.
This is supported by 2016 Kings Fund report which calls for gardening to be integrated into health policy. There are hundreds of farms and many community food gardens that not only produce food but also deliver health outcomes and provide training and jobs. Some are commissioned by the NHS, with most grant funded and therefore unable to provide a consistent service.
Via local referral agencies investment in such a programme to create links to the health service, would benefit farms and community food gardens and with income streams would enable the farms and gardens to offer a cost effective service for patients, reducing dependency on grant funding, and potentially saving millions in GP time and prescription drugs.”