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NHS Greenspace

Making the most of the NHS outdoors estate to improve health and wellbeing outcomes.

NHS Greenspace Demonstration Project – a suite of films has been released by the Green Exercise Partnership to show how improved greenspace at health board sites can benefit patients, staff, visitors and the local community - and improves sustainability performance.

Trailer – 1 min

Short film – approx. 5 mins

Main film – approx. 10 mins


Talking Heads - 2 / 3 mins

Green Exercise Partnership and Environment

Design & Planning

Patient User Experience

Health Professionals

Videos produced by the Green Exercise Partnership

NHS Greenspace - Realising the Potential

Since 2010, the Green Exercise Partnership (NHS Health Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage) in conjunction with NHS Health Facilities Scotland has co-ordinated the NHS Greenspace Demonstration Project.  The project has provided guidance and practical support to NHS Area Health Boards in order to help them realise their ambitions for maximising the potential of the NHS outdoors estate as a health-promoting resource.

The NHS Greenspace Demonstration Project aims to:

  • promote awareness, engagement and ownership among relevant NHS Scotland Health Boards of the opportunity to unlock this important Health Promoting Health Service resource
  • support Boards to deliver practical enhancement and better use of the outdoors estate within NHS ownership or influence
  • demonstrate good practice and mainstream the use of greenspace on the NHS estate as a health promoting asset consistent with national policy objectives

Making the case for action

There is now an increasing body of evidence to support the physical and mental health benefits of greenspace, woodland and contact with nature – see A Dose of Nature and NHS Forest evidence summary.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) produced guidance on physical activity and the environment in 2008 (currently being updated) which provided the first evidence-based recommendations on how to improve the physical environment to encourage physical activity.  Such changes are considered cost-effective for the health benefits they deliver and they also support a range of corporate commitments on improving the quality of NHS service delivery, contributing to sustainable development and enhancing biodiversity.

The Green Exercise Partnership (GEP) commissioned a series of interviews with Directors of Public Health and senior staff in NHS Scotland to understand where NHS greenspace might contribute to meeting current health priorities.

Improving NHS Greenspace for health benefits is consistent with policy requirements and best practice.  The following documents will help those with responsibilities for the NHS estate to make the case to maximise the potential of this asset to deliver health outcomes and contribute to a range of corporate commitments:

Experience suggests that NHS funding for greenspace projects can be found. The use of NHS endowment funds should be explored and a range of external funding may also be available for improving greenspace on the NHS estate.

Current activity and good practice

A range of NHS greenspace activity is being undertaken by Scottish health boards, from large general hospitals to community health centres, and illustrating a range of uses of the outdoors – from specialist greenspace designed for clinical use, through to more general amenity, recreation and active travel opportunities for patients, visitors, staff and the local community.

In considering how to make the most of the health-promoting potential of a site the two main scenarios are:

  • Retro-fitting – bringing underused land in existing NHS facilities into active use, where demand and space are identified to offer therapeutic greenspace such as growing spaces, woodland walks, outdoor gyms and improved biodiversity
  • New facilities – promoting high quality greenspace at the outset of the design of new healthcare buildings. This method has the greatest potential to achieve high value, sustainable, integrated HPHS settings.

For larger site-specific greenspace projects a master plan should be prepared.

A range of NHS Greenspace Demonstration Project case studies are available:

  • Ayr and Alisa Hospitals
  • Forth Valley Royal Hospital
  • Gartnavel Hospitals
  • Possilpark Health and Care Centre
  • Woodside & Maryhill Health & Care Centres
  • New Craigs Hospital

Designing communications to encourage use of NHS greenspace

Further examples and supporting case studies from across the UK can also be found on the Forestry Commission Scotland’s website.

Practical advice has been produced by Scottish Natural in the following areas:

Initiatives that support the NHS Greenspace demonstration project

Improving landscape management and estate infrastructure by Area Health Boards can open up opportunities for partnership working with a range of third sector organisations in order to encourage and facilitate greater use of the greenspace and in some case, contribute to its management. Some examples are given below:

Health Walks groups - Paths for All - Walking for Health initiative

Medal Routes - Ramblers Scotland – walking hubs at healthcare facilities

Environmental volunteering - The Conservation Volunteers - Green Gyms®

Therapeutic gardening - Trellis Scotland - gardening projects network


A range of green exercise case studies have been produced - for specific examples of how health boards have been involved with wider initiatives, see: Blarbuie Woods, Dundee Healthy Living Initiative, Royal Edinburgh Community Garden and Tayside Woods for Health.


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