Evaluating the Green Social Prescribing test and learn pilots

Working with researchers at The University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, and the University of Plymouth we have been funded to evaluate the Government’s flagship Green Social Prescribing test and learn pilots programme.

Social prescribing and community-based support enables GPs, other health and care practitioners and local agencies to refer people to a link worker who gives people time and focuses on what matters to the individual. For some people this will be green social prescribing, which links them to nature-based interventions and activities, such as local walking for health schemes, community gardening and food-growing projects.

The government has invested over £5.5m to better understand how nature can be used to improve mental health and wellbeing. Seven pilots were selected:

  • Humber Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership
  • South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System
  • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Integrated Care System
  • Joined Up Care Derbyshire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership
  • Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership
  • Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership
  • Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership

The evaluation of the test and learn pilots is funded for a total of £887,413 from HMT’s Shared Outcomes Fund, a fund announced by HM Treasury to pilot innovative ways of working that will improve collaboration on priority policy areas that sit across, and are delivered by, multiple public sector organisations to improve outcomes and deliver better value for citizens. The evaluation contract has been awarded by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and will be supported by Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Natural England, NHS England, Public Health England, Sport England, the National Academy of Social Prescribing (NASP), and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Throughout the two year funded period, the research consortium will deliver an in depth evaluation across seven test and learn sites targeting communities in England hardest hit by COVID-19. The aim is to help these sites understand how, and in what ways, their activities can successfully connect people with nature to improve mental health and wellbeing. The team will also take a “lighter touch” approach to evaluating green social prescribing in other areas, helping to boost understanding of how green social prescribing could be scaled up and embedded into practice effectively.

The team is led by Dr Annette Haywood, who is based within the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield. Colleagues within the Health Sciences School and Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield are also involved in the delivery of the evaluation. Professor Ruth Garside leads the University of Exeter team (linked to the University of Plymouth through PenARC; https://arc-swp.nihr.ac.uk/). Her team is drawn from staff within the European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre on Natural Environments and Health. Professor Chris Dayson is leading a team at Sheffield Hallam University, which is drawn from staff within The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) and the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC).

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