It’s OK To Say: St Albans GP surgery prescribes gardening instead of medicine

The garden is part of a social prescribing programme at Parkbury House. Picture: Paul McNally

The garden is part of a social prescribing programme at Parkbury House. Picture: Paul McNally - Credit: Archant

A new community-led initiative aimed at helping people with mental health concerns has led to the opening of a therapy garden.

Parkbury House Surgery has opened the garden at its practice in Hopkins Crescent, Sandridge, as part of its social prescribing facility.

Social prescribing is a process aimed at helping people who have low moods, mild depression, anxiety or long-term mental health conditions or are physically inactive.

As part of the scheme a GP or primary healthcare professional makes a referral to a social prescriber based in the surgery, and the patient is then supported to engage in community-based activities.

The first step in the creation of the therapy garden involved nine members of the practice planting bulbs. In the future they will include a peaceful area, a vegetable plot with raised beds and a wild flower area. The surgery has been supported by a small grant from Sandridge Parish Council.

Paul McNally, head of social prescribing at Parkbury House Surgery, said: "We believe the garden will help individuals with any experience of mental ill-health to develop social connections that can support transition out of hospital - working together on a common goal reduces barriers towards mental health care and can lessen anxieties.

"It will also encourage prolonged engagement with a support service outside of secondary care, and promote vocational skill development, purpose, sense of worth, responsibility and increasing social skills for individuals."

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The initiative has won the support of the It's OK To Say campaign, which was launched by anxiety specialist Stacey Turner alongside the Herts Advertiser last year, and encourages people to speak out about mental health concerns before they escalate.

Stacey said: "This is such a lovely concept. It makes a wonderful addition to being able to offer more than a referral and help patients feel reassured while they're perhaps waiting for further help. It's not just a garden, it's therapy and extended help."

One patient said: "Your social prescribing is an exceptional service - it's invaluable. It's so nice to have someone to listen and understand. As you get older when things go wrong it can be very frightening, your help really saved me."

You can find out more about the project see