Patients could soon be prescribed vegetable growing with the launch of a hospital allotments scheme this week at Vale Community Hospital in Dursley.
The project to turn unused ground at the hospital into raised bed allotments will take another step towards completion with a tree planting and the breaking of ground on Friday.
People living in the area will be able to apply for a plot through the new Social Prescription initiative, which links patients with non-medical sources of support within the community, and can also be referred by their GPs and other health staff. In addition, people who have suffered heart attacks or angina may be referred to the scheme as part of their rehabilitation and the plots will also be open to those on the waiting list for allotments in Dursley.
The development, which has taken three years to plan, has been inspired by Dr Simon Opher, a GP in the area. It is being supported by Stroud-based Down to Earth, which will organise the initial set-up.
Dr Opher would like to see the scheme extended to other hospitals.
“There are numerous medical and psychological benefits to patients who take on an allotment,” he said. “This scheme is unique as it will take place in the grounds of a hospital and support patients trying out gardening for the first time or after a serious illness has stopped them from doing what was always their passion.
“The physical fitness and healthy eating are part of the benefits, the others lie in growing a sense of community and reducing isolation that illness can bring upon us.”
The 40 raised beds will each measure 16ft by 4ft and the site will have ramps to allow wheelchair access, a storage shed and tea-making facilities. Support will be available for those taking on a plot and there will be workshops on growing food. The area is going to be landscaped with flowers, herbs and a small orchard.
The scheme is awaiting decisions on funding applications for stage two but hopes to have the hospital allotments ready for use by September. Meanwhile, organisers are appealing for volunteers to help with the build and the running of workshops.
Amanda Godber of Down to Earth said: “Linking health, nutritious food and physical activity by developing the unused land at the front of the hospital into a suite of allotments for local community groups and social prescribing is such a valuable project. We hope to work with local community groups and involve the community in the whole project.”
Anyone interested in volunteering or being involved should email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• For more information see Down to Earth