Kate Humble, big woods, big balls, and walking on prescription.
The historian G.M. Trevelyan once observed that he had ‘two doctors: my left leg and my right’. And it seems the Shetland Islands have taken his words to heart.
GPs on Britain’s most northerly isles can now prescribe ‘nature’ as part of their patients’ treatment. The idea of ‘Nature Prescriptions’ was trialled in Scallaway, and was so successful it has been rolled out across all ten of the islands’ surgeries.
The project is a joint venture between NHS Shetland and the RSPB. As part of the prescription, GPs hand over a leaflet on ways to engage with nature in their local area, and a calendar of season activities. Walking, of course, figures highly on the list.
Karen MacKelvie, of RSPB Scotland, explains: “There is overwhelming evidence that nature has health benefits for body and mind. Shetland is stappit fu’ [stuffed full] of natural wonders. But despite many doctors using the outdoors 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 get their patients outdoors.”
GP Dr Chloe Evans added: “It’s free, easily accessible, and allows increased connection with your surroundings, which hopefully leads to improved physical and mental health.”
There’s no word yet on whether the program will be expanded onto the mainland (wouldn’t that be great?), but if you fancy a taste of it, you can download the activity calendar at www.healthyshetland.com. Most of the options are Shetland-centric of course – but you could easily adapt them to your own geography, wherever you may be…
GET OUT THERE! Birdwatching on the cliffs of Hermaness is one of the recommendations in Shetland’s Nature Prescriptions calendar.