Health professionals network day at High Lodge

A member of Forestry England staff talks to a group of people in the forest

Sharing the health benefits of nature

When NHS England in the East of England's Enhance programme heard about Forestry England’s feel good in the forest activities, they were keen to find out more and learn from our experience delivering forest-based health interventions. In November 2023, more than 40 trainee healthcare workers came to High Lodge in Thetford Forest to meet Forestry England staff and get hands-on in discovering how to feel good in the forest. From disc golf to Dragon’s Den, this active networking day made a big difference to the health of the participants themselves and also to their future plans for treating patients.

Anyone who was in attendance could appreciate the palpable excitement and newfound passion in the attendees, and to hear that level of engagement was just fantastic.
Attendee at the High Lodge networking day

Common goals for improving health and wellbeing

Our Feel Good in the Forest social prescribing project offers a supportive programme of outdoor activities for people with mild-to-moderate health conditions or those who are looking to improve their health and wellbeing. People can self-refer to these activities or be signposted to us from link workers and health professionals across their community. 

The Enhance programme aims to help future doctors and their colleagues feel empowered to deliver quality patient care across all systems, including outside of the traditional healthcare structure, within the communities they serve. 

As there is an obvious link between our social prescribing work and the aims of Enhance, we were keen to showcase outdoor activities in the nation’s forests and the associated physical and mental health benefits, and to encourage the NHS participants to consider green social prescribing as an option in their own work.

Learning by doing

A key part of the networking day at High Lodge was that participants themselves experienced some of the activities offered within the social prescribing project. In this case, they played disc golf as a more active, group activity and also completed some elements of a wellbeing trail as a reflective, self-led activity.

Following this there was a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style activity where smaller groups came up with their own nature-based interventions and pitched these to their colleagues.

Seven people, some holding frisbees, smile at the camera next to a disc golf net in the forest
I will definitely incorporate exercise and nature in my advice to patients and hopefully, as I become more advanced in my training, I will have more resources to do so.
Attendee at the High Lodge networking day

Making a positive impact

Feedback from the NHS staff who attended this session showed it to be a success that made a positive impact. Over 90% of participants felt motivated to use the skills, knowledge and understanding gained from the networking day, and all of them thought that referrals to Forestry England sites would benefit the health and wellbeing of their patients.

I plan to take some of this newfound knowledge to patients I look after, particularly in General Practice, as another method for improving physical, mental health and overall wellbeing.

Since this networking day was held, teams in other parts of the country have expressed interest in hosting similar events with health professionals in their areas. We’re looking forward to continuing to share the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in nature with professionals who can directly influence the communities they work with.

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woman laughing looking up in a forest
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