To mark the NHS’s 70th birthday, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust (C&I) will receive a garden from the world’s most famous flower show this summer for the benefit of patients and staff, thanks to an RHS competition.
The RHS Feel Good Garden, designed by Matt Keightley, was a key feature at the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show. After the show, the garden is being relocated to the Trust, which provides care and treatment to vulnerable adults in a built-up part of London where green space is limited.
C&I provides inpatient and community mental health services and the garden will be located at its Highgate Mental Health Centre, one of its two inpatient psychiatric sites.
From the date of installation, the garden will be accessible on a daily basis for around 30 adults and enjoyed by hundreds more patients and staff who are cared for and work in the wards surrounding and overlooking the space. As the garden develops, the Trust project team will work with those staff and patients to ensure the benefits and enjoyment of this unique gift are felt by as many people as possible.
Andrew Kingston, C&I Recovery Service Manager with expertise in horticultural therapy, said: “We serve older adults with mental health problems, such as schizophrenia and severe depression, or dementia. At the time of their arrival, people can be extremely distressed and agitated.
“An attractive and well-maintained outdoor garden area will be invaluable in contributing to their recovery. It will also give these very vulnerable individuals a rare opportunity to interact with an outdoor environment and will be of significant support in their recovery.”
"It’s a unique and wonderful gift to patients, their relatives and carers, as well as staff on the units.”
Andrew Kingston, C&I Recovery Service Manager
About the competition
The competition was a joint venture between the RHS and the NHS, to raise awareness of the positive impact that horticulture has on mental health and to promote how gardens can provide relaxing and rehabilitative spaces.
Keightley, twice-winner of the RHS/BBC People’s Choice Award at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and part of the judging panel, said: “Looking through the submissions was a really moving experience and demonstrated just how valuable a green space or garden can be for patients and staff. There were so many inspiring entries, it was not an easy decision.
“I am delighted that the RHS Feel Good Garden will live on, providing a calm and beautiful space for adults in need of respite. A highlight is visiting the space and meeting patients and staff to really understand how we can make this the best garden it can be for the people using, working and visiting the trust.”
Keightley visited Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust on Monday 9 April to start making plans for the new site and speak to patients and Trust staff about their aspirations for the new garden.
The benefits of gardening
Writer, broadcaster and gardener, Monty Don said: “I know from personal experience how gardening helps heal many mental and physical ills. When you are sad, a garden comforts. When you are humiliated or defeated a garden consoles.”
“When you are consumed by anxiety it will soothe you and when the world is a dark and bleak place it shines a light to guide you on.”
The King's Fund report on Gardens and Health states that: “The mental health benefits of gardening are broad and diverse. Studies have shown significant reductions in depression and anxiety, improved social functioning and wider effects, including opportunities for vocational development.*
“In particular, some quantitative studies found significant reductions in symptoms of depression and anxiety while qualitative studies found enhanced emotional wellbeing, improved social functioning, improved physical health and opportunities for vocational development.”**
Interest in social prescribing by the NHS and doctors – where patients are referred to local, non-clinical community services which could include gardening – is on the increase across England. An estimated 20% of GPs’ time is spent on problems with social causes, and social prescribing could be a way to manage increasing demands on the NHS, including pressures on GPs’ time.***
*https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/field_publication_file/Gardens_and_health.pdf page 6; **page 26;
*** Torjesen, I. (2016) Social Prescribing could help alleviate pressure on GPs. BMJ, 352:i1436