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Shetland GPs to prescribe enjoying nature to patients

Nature is set to be prescribed to patients in Shetland by their GPs (Karen MacKelvie/PA)

GPs across Shetland could soon be prescribing their patients some time outdoors.

The move comes following a successful pilot at Scalloway surgery last year in a partnership project between NHS Scotland and RSPB Scotland.

The option of a prescription for “nature” will now be rolled out to all 10 GP surgeries across Shetland.

The concept aims to utilise the benefits of nature on reducing blood pressure and anxiety and increasing happiness.

Watching the Gannet population at Unst is one way Shetlanders can enjoy the outdoors Credit: Ian Francis/PA

RSPB Scotland has produced a leaflet and a calendar of seasonal activities that GPs can give their patients.

Dr Chloe Evans, a GP at Scalloway Health Centre, said: “I want to take part because the project provides a structured way for patients to access nature as part of a non-drug approach to health problems.

“The benefits to patients are that it is free, easily accessible, allows increased connection with surroundings, which hopefully leads to improved physical and mental health for individuals.”

Taking time out at the beach Credit: Karen MacKelvie/PA

Karen MacKelvie of RSPB Scotland said there is “overwhelming evidence” that nature has health benefits.

“We saw an opportunity to design a leaflet that helps doctors describe the health benefits of nature and provides plenty of local ideas to help doctors fire-up their patients’ imaginations and get them outdoors,” she said.

“The benefits of physical activity are well documented, with regular physical activity reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes, diabetes, cancers, depression, anxiety and sleep problems.”