Doctors urged to use health reforms to prescribe gardening treatment

Doctors should prescribe gardening to people experiencing depression and other forms of ill health, the president of the Royal College of Physicians has said.

Sir Richard Thompson, who is a patron of gardening therapy charity Thrive, said the Government's health reforms will allow GPs to use more innovative treatment approaches. Under the reforms, clinical groups will commission services, giving them more choice to prescribe treatments such as horticulture, which Thompson said could be more beneficial than drugs.

"I have, for some time, thought that doctors should prescribe a course of gardening for people who come to them with depression or stroke," he said.

"The new commissioning structures about to be introduced might allow more innovative treatment approaches to be put in place, including the opportunity to try gardening rather than prescribe expensive drugs."

He added that Thrive and other organisations had produced evidence that being outdoors in a natural environment was good for people. "Drug therapy can be really expensive, but gardening costs little and anyone can do it," he said.

"Gardening burns off calories, makes joints supple and is fantastic exercise. As a physical activity, gardening has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of anxiety, depression and dementia."

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