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NEWS RELEASE No: 153553 APRIL 2012

New guidance promotes positive role of the green outdoors in health care

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Forth Valley Royal Hospital - view of hospital from woods

The role that well designed gardens, parkland, woodland and similar green spaces can play in helping patients to recover from illness and injury is highlighted in a new Practice Guide published by the Forestry Commission.

Entitled ‘Greenspace Design for Health and Well-being’, it provides guidance on providing and designing green spaces around hospitals, care homes and other health and welfare sites that can supplement and add value to the clinical care provided indoors.

The guidance aims to inspire everyone involved with outdoor spaces in healthcare settings to think how they could be used for therapeutic purposes. It is relevant to all facilities, from the largest hospital to the smallest health centres, care homes and special schools, and is applicable to new-build sites and refurbishments. The NHS Forest project is already showing what can be achieved in practical ways.

It will be of interest to health practitioners, planners and policymakers in the National Health Service and elsewhere, forestry, arboriculture and grounds management professionals, and people who deal directly in patient care. It is written in language suitable for a non-technical audience, and while acting as a good introduction to people new to ‘therapeutic landscapes’, it will also interest professionals already working in the field. Illustrated case studies of examples around Britain are included.

Welcoming its publication, Sir Muir Gray, Chief Knowledge Officer to the NHS, said,

”Outdoor spaces around hospitals used to be common at hospitals and care sites, with gardens, terraces, orchards and meadows accessible to patients and residents, particularly in mental health settings.

“However, the benefits of spending time outdoors have been increasingly overlooked as the emphasis on creating a sterile environment indoors has developed. This has fostered a view that the healing environment is restricted to the inside of hospital buildings, and this Guide will be a valuable contribution to efforts to restore the outdoor environment to its rightful place as equally important in patient treatment.”

The Guide builds on research and experience demonstrating that designing outdoor spaces to have a therapeutic function can be cost-effective, improve patient outcomes, speed recovery and generate savings, and Pam Warhurst, Chair of the Forestry Commission, added,

“We’ve all long known that we feel better after spending time out of doors in ‘green’ places such as parks and woodland.

“Now a raft of research findings in recent years have confirmed that this experience is not just a vague impression, it represents a range of very real mental and physical health benefits. These benefits can be measured and valued in health and welfare terms, not only for individuals, but for society as a whole.

“This guidance is a very welcome contribution to efforts to make the health benefits of ‘greenspace’ available not just to people where they live, but also where they are treated for mental and physical ill health and injury. They really can contribute positively to treatment programmes.”

The Guidance was written by Aileen Shackel, landscape architect and director of Aileen Shackell Associates (ASA), assisted by Robin Walter, chartered forester and Associate of ASA. The foreword was contributed by Derek Feeley, Chief Executive Officer of NHS Scotland, and Sir Muir Gray.

Hard copies of the Forestry Commission Practice Guide ‘Greenspace Design for Health and Well-Being’ cost £13.50 and are available from Forestry Commission Publications, PO Box 785, Stockport SK3 3AT; t: 0161 495 4845;
quoting stock code FCPG019. Please enclose a cheque payable to Forestry Commission if ordering by post. An electronic version may be downloaded from the publications area of the Forestry Commission website.

Details of all Forestry Commission publications, many of which are free to download, are available from


  1. The Forestry Commission is the government department for forestry in Great Britain, and works to improve the lives of people through the many social, economic and environmental benefits that well designed, sustainable forests and woodland can provide. Its Forest Research agency carries out world-class scientific research and technical development relevant to forestry for a range of internal and extenal clients.
  2. The press release was amended on 3 April 2012 to update the publication ordering details.

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