The Growing Health scheme is aimed at elderly people who want to be more physically active, and patients with severe mental health problems who are stable.
Dr James Cavanagh, from Brook Green Medical Centre in Hammersmith, has so far referred around 10 patients onto the scheme and says that it allows them to ‘go forward with their lives’.
‘I have at least three patients whose families have come to me and said it’s made an enormous difference to their relative – they’re happier and more confident,’ he told GPOnline.
‘We have a lot of isolated people in our community and this is a really positive way of slowing re-integrating them into society.’
Growing Health is run by Sustain, a group of charities that promotes sustainable food growing and responsible farming. They are encouraging more GPs to get their patients involved in local gardening and food-growing groups.
The patients meet in the gardens around Dr Cavanagh’s practice, and in nearby allotments and garden squares.
Dr Cavanagh, who is a keen gardener himself, thinks that this type of ‘social prescribing’ is on the rise.
‘It wouldn’t matter if it was gardening or cooking or painting, as long as it’s a safe environment and they’re meeting people in a similar situation,’ he said. ‘It’s a force for good in getting isolated people back into the community.’