Growing People for Professionals and Prescribers copyright 2024

For Professionals and Prescribers

For Professionals and Prescribers

Information for General Practitioners and Social Prescribers

On this page:

  • Summary of and evidence for Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) in a social prescribing context.
  • Growing People – outcomes and how it works.
  • Gardener pathway at Growing People.
  • Making a professional referral.

STH and Social Prescribing

It is now well accepted that nature-based activities improve people’s wellbeing. A structured approach to this is Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH), a therapeutic practice that uses carefully chosen, garden-based activities to address specifically identified health goals. STH has been used since the 1980s in many countries to address social exclusion, deprivation and health issues (1). STH is being increasingly recognised around the world to support recovery from a range of mental and physical health conditions. It is underpinned by a robust theoretical framework (2-8) and scales to assess progress of the interventions have been validated (9, 10).

The NHS Long Term Plan aims to increase social prescribing in primary care. For some people this will be green social prescribing, which includes nature-based interventions, for example gardening and food-growing. NHS England has published a Summary Guide on Social Prescribing and Community-based Support in June 2020: the NHS England report, including a Common Outcomes Framework and an online learning platform.

In March 2023, the government published 2 reports: the first one is an online review of 501 clinicians and 4,000 patients or potential services users of green social prescribing (Exploring perceptions of green social prescribing among clinicians and the public); the second is a report on capacity for green social prescribing (National green social prescribing delivery capacity assessment: final report). Both reports are very positive about and supportive of green social prescribing.

Between 2021 and 2023, a cross-government programme was carried out with an investment of £5.77 million aimed at preventing and tackling mental ill health through green social prescribing (NHS England » Green social prescribing). Seven test sites across the England took part and provided data on system enablers, implementation, prescribing pathways and impact assessment. The interim report has been published here: National Evaluation of the Preventing and Tackling Mental Ill Health through Green Social Prescribing Programme | Sheffield Hallam University (

There is also an Academy for Social Prescribing: The National Academy for Social Prescribing. Within this website there is evidence on Social Prescribing: Evidence - National Academy for Social Prescribing.

Growing People in Letchworth - outcomes and how it works

Growing People in Letchworth has provided STH since 2006. It is the only such project in North Hertfordshire with qualified staff team focusing on the needs of people with mental health issues.

Our programme offers adults with mental health conditions the opportunity to attend a three-hour session once a week. These sessions are run by fully qualified horticultural therapists and supported by trained volunteers. The programme is adapted to each individual’s needs and aims to help people to live well with their mental health condition. Typical benefits from attending Growing People include reduced stress and isolation, and increased physical exercise and confidence. Participants also learn new skills and enjoy the benefit of being in a peaceful and natural environment.

Participants will be joining a friendly and supportive group; they must have an interest in spending time outdoors and don’t need to have any specific gardening skills. Gardening can be adapted to suit people with a wide range of physical abilities, making horticultural therapy a great option for people with complex conditions, for example we have elevated vegetable beds for people with mobility issues.

In the last 5 years nearly 80 people with a range of mental health conditions have been supported through STH at Growing People. Some stay with the Project for a few months only, and some for many years. The gardeners who have left the project since 2017 spend an average of approximately 2 years with us. We currently have 26 gardeners, 11 of which have been with us for more than 5 years.

Of the gardeners who have moved on in the last five years, 2 have successfully (re)commenced and completed full time education, 4 have commenced paid employment, 5 gardeners have become supported volunteers, 3 have moved into independent living accommodation, 2 have started voluntary work and 5 attended a tailored horticultural therapy course evaluated by the Department of Education.

Gardener Pathway at Growing People

  • Following a look around the orchard gardens and our facilities, and a taster session every gardener will have a full holistic, initial assessment.
  • Each horticultural therapy session will be assessed by the horticultural therapist based on an occupational therapy assessment of the gardener's progress using SOAP notes (subjective objective assessment plan).
  • Every quarter the gardener completes a questionnaire using validated tools to assess mental health and wellbeing, using validated attainment scales including the Goal Attainment Scale (10). This is to encourage and monitor the gardener’s progress.
  • Every three to four months the gardener and the horticultural therapist work collaboratively to set individualised, SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timebound).
  • Gardeners will be signposted and referred onto the most appropriate multidisciplinary team member (such as general practitioners, occupational therapists, social workers, physiotherapists, nurses, speech therapists, dieticians) for their health and wellbeing, when and as required.
  • The horticultural therapists also refer gardeners onto educational, voluntary and employment opportunities, well-being courses such as New Leaf, MIND and general courses.

Making A Professional Referral

We welcome referrals from healthcare providers, social care professionals and community organisations in Letchworth and the North Herts area, to enable people aged 18 years and over with mental health care needs to begin Social and Therapeutic Horticulture sessions.

Referrals can come from general practitioners, occupational therapists, mental health professionals and practitioners, social prescribers, housing support officers and community organisations.

If you’d like to find out more about how referrals work or if you want to make a referral, please get in touch.

During the referral process, we ask referrers to do their utmost to secure funding for placements on the project wherever possible. We are a small project, and by securing funding for the clients you help to maximise our capacity to provide the high quality service in promoting positive mental health in the local area.

However, our driving motivation is always to help people struggling with their mental health. We truly endeavour not to turn away people who can benefit from our services. If there is no chance of funding a placement, please do get in touch with us anyway, to discuss options, as we may still be able to help.

Each session costs £30 per person, so a 12 week/3 month placement would be £360.


  1. Green Social Prescribing for sustainable healthcare, from the Centre for sustainable healthcare, Green Social Prescribing for sustainable healthcare | Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (accessed 16 February 2023).
  2. Sempik, J., Aldridge, J. and Becker, S. (2003) Evidence and therapeutic horticulture: Evidence and messages from research, Thrive and the Centre for Child and Family Research. Loughborough University. (accessed 15 Oct 2022).
  3. Berman, M.G., Kross, E., Krpan, K.M., Askren, M.K., Burson, A., Deldin, P.J., Kaplan, S., Sherdell, L., Gotlib, I.H. and Jonides, J. (2012) Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 140, 3, pp.300-305.
  4. Bloomfield, D. (2017) What makes nature-based interventions for mental health successful? British Journal of Psychiatry International, 14, 4, pp. 82-85.
  5. Bratman, G.N., Hamilton, J.P. and Daily, G.C. (2012) The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive and mental health. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1249, pp.118-136.

Social and therapeutic horticulture for wellbeing and positive mental health

Growing People

The Sadie Centre

Rosehill Hospital

Hitchin Road




Charity Registration No. 295219

Contact Us:

Tel: 07794 347283

Social Media:

X (formerlyTwitter)