Tree image by Johannes Plenio from

GreenSPring for system change.

What is GreenSPring?

The name GreenSPring comes from the term green social prescribing (GSP). Covering Derbyshire and Derby City, GreenSPring is the pilot site that was selected by the department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to be a ‘test and learn’ site for green social prescribing.

What is Green Social Prescribing (GSP)?

Green social prescribing is the practice of supporting people to engage in nature-based activities to support their health and wellbeing. This can include activities such as walking, cycling, community gardening and food-growing projects, as well as practical conservation tasks such as tree planting. An example includes prescribing appropriate physical activity to people living with long-term conditions to manage their conditions and improve their mental well-being.

What will the GreenSPring pilot do?

We are working to define the system change needed to realise the potential of GSP.

  • Develop a Derbyshire-wide collaborative framework to bring existing and new partners together to create a sustainable scaled–up model that better connects social prescribers and providers, so more people can be helped to access local green spaces.
  • Identify and embed appropriate referral routes from referring organisations.
  • Initially focus support on testing across urban and rural locations, on people with mental ill health and communities of high deprivation and inequalities and make services accessible to those least in contact with nature at present, experiencing a spectrum of non-clinical mental health conditions to provide benefit from greater contact with the natural world
  • By addressing the challenges and barriers, aim within two years to have a vibrant network of health, environment, VCFSE sector, social prescribers and community providers all contributing to the success of social prescribing across Derbyshire and Derby City.
  • Support nature-based activity to become a fully integrated and accepted element of our local approaches to community resilience and connectedness
  • Develop robust programme management, safeguarding, GDPR, quality assurance and other resources to support existing social prescribing activity
  • Support access to a range of nature-based opportunities within walking distance or 20 min travel
  • Provide Green Advocacy across the system to increase understanding of green options
  • Produce a collated resource of nature-based activities for testing purposes and future use

How will it do it?

  • By testing a range of referral and funding models to enable groups/organisations at varying levels to provide high quality green social prescribing interventions.
  • By developing virtual local structures based on existing Place and Localities configurations, embracing already committed and new social prescribers, mental health practitioners and VCFSE organisations
  • By employing ‘Green Advocates’ who will support these structures to evolve with the best geographical scope, methods of engagement, leadership and co-operation for each area. They will help create support for the work at grass roots level and will be a key route for upskilling Social Prescribing Link Workers, community health staff and green providers to understand the referral processes and benefits of the programme.
  • By identifying additional funding opportunities and examine funding flows with the Primary Care Networks and wider partners
  • By auditing, planning and evaluating, and asking “what activity works, in which circumstances and for whom?”
  • Initially, by targeting those areas identified with correlation between low social mobility, high deprivation and adverse economic and unemployment impact from Covid. Adults will be identified through social prescribers and partners across the system.
  • By ensuring there are opportunities for people to self-refer directly or go through the VCFSE
  • By building relationships and supporting mutual understanding and promoting equity of opportunity and contribution, regardless of organisational size or scale
  • By devising and delivering training relevant to the aims of the cross sector partners of the project and to develop a trusted and referral ready VCFSE sector

Why do it?

Individuals are placing more importance on engaging with the natural environment as a result of the pandemic.

Accessing wildlife-rich places benefits both physical and mental health, works for people of all ages and backgrounds, and is a way for people to feel more in control of their own health and wellbeing. Active engagement in outdoor exercise or study in wild places – particularly through organised volunteering or learning programmes – can increase the health benefit of contact with nature, especially if it addresses all of the “Five Ways to Wellbeing” (Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, Give).

Intentionally structured nature-related activity, delivered specifically as a form of, and alternative to, ‘treatment’ or ‘therapy’ can be prescribed as an effective way of improving mental resilience and managing mental illness.

There is a gap in knowledge about existing green social prescribing interventions, and disconnect between the sectors referring to and providing those interventions.

What are the local issues?

  • Derbyshire’s local authority areas are predicted to be amongst the 50 most affected (South Derbyshire facing the 2nd largest impact) by economic contraction resulting from coronavirus
  • Derbyshire QOF data shows the prevalence for mental health is worse than the national average
  • Derbyshire is worse than the national average for depression and anxiety
  • The Derbyshire People’s Voice Survey showed 52.4% of people reporting worse mental health, 58% reporting worse Emotional Health. (reference)

What is the local opportunity?

As a county with such rich landscapes and natural resources, we will address significant public health challenges on which frequent access to nature can have a marked impact. The project will enable us to work towards person-centred cost-effective choices for people throughout Derbyshire.

Social prescribing is a key component of Universal Personalised Care and, as this is already being led within the STP by the Prevention Board, it will continue to be well supported and developed within and by our system.

We hope to contribute to the current development of the new ICS in Derbyshire (JUDD link here), and intend to build and develop the connectivity for sustainability – a Derbyshire ‘Green Thread’ running through all communities.

Green tree image by Andre Cook, Creative Commons,

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