Patients at Lynfield Mount Hospital will have a greener future with the planting of 260 trees, as part of a wider initiative funded by Natural England, the public body that helps protect nature and landscapes.

The innovative partnership between Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust and Natural England aims to evidence the positive impact of green therapy on patient wellbeing, whilst supporting nature recovery in the area. The approach will be used in the Trust’s hospital and community mental health services across Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven.

The Trust’s gardening and sustainability teams and staff planted the trees at the front of the hospital, with Natural England’s Chief Operating Officer, Oliver Harmar, and the Care Trust’s Chief Executive, Therese Patten.

The planting will create a greener space for patients, visitors and staff, with a hedgerow and individual young trees including bird cherry and rowan. The area will also feature a summer wildflower meadow, with plans to add vegetable and flower planters and bird boxes over the coming months.

The trees will provide a variety of benefits including attracting native wildlife and storing carbon to benefit the wider environment, contributing to the Trust’s net zero goals.

Therese Patten, Chief Executive, said: “We know that being active outdoors is good for all of us, but it can be particularly beneficial for mental wellbeing. We have pockets of green therapy across our hospital and community services, but we want to test the benefits of connecting patients with nature as part of their care plans. We know from smaller projects that patients feel calmer when they’re involved in nature-based activities, and their feedback is overwhelmingly positive. It’s exciting to be scaling this up and we’re hugely grateful to Natural England for their support, and to NHS Forest who donated the trees.”

Senior Occupational Health Therapist, Tracy Metcalf, is a strong advocate for green therapy following her work with male patients on the hospital’s Maplebeck Ward, often reducing the need for additional medication. For one young man with acute psychosis, getting involved in growing and harvesting vegetables in the hospital’s allotment helped reduce paranoid thoughts and provided meaningful engagement. The patient ‘loved being outdoors’ and it improved his wellbeing, and he continued gardening after being discharged. Another patient struggled with the symptoms of schizophrenia but found that outdoor activity made a noticeable reduction to hearing voices.

The creation of vital green outdoor spaces further develops green therapy activity in the mental hospital that serves Bradford district and Craven. Patients on its dementia assessment unit are benefiting from immersive experiences, with headsets that provide the sights, sounds and experiences of outdoors, from beach walks in Devon to hill climbing in Somerset. Green therapy cards depicting outdoor activities support conversations with patients to encourage active involvement. Walking groups and nature-based arts and crafts are also used.

Oliver Harmar, Natural England Chief Operating Officer said: “We know that access to nature plays a key role in improving our health and wellbeing and the project at Lynfield Mount is a great example of how Natural England is working with the NHS to increase access to nature for patients, staff and local communities by bringing nature to those that may not be able to easily access local green spaces.

“This is part of our wider Nature Recovery Project across Bradford and the South Pennies working with partners to connect people with nature and support local habitat and landscape restoration.”