The role that green spaces can play in helping patients to recover from illness or injury has been highlighted in new guidance.
The good practice guide published by the Forestry Commission makes the case for the curative benefits of well-designed gardens, parkland and woodland.
Greenspace Design for Health and Well-being gives advice on providing and designing green spaces around hospitals, care homes and other health and welfare sites that can supplement the clinical care provided indoors.
"It aims to inspire everyone involved with outdoor spaces in healthcare settings to think how they could be used for therapeutic purposes," said the commission. "It is relevant to all facilities from large hospitals to small health centres."
Author Aileen Shackell, a landscape architect and director of Aileen Shackell Associates, said her guide was targeted at grounds-management professionals, arboriculturists, planners, health practitioners and NHS policy-makers.
Sections in non-technical jargon cover therapeutic landscapes and include case studies from around Britain. The guide follows news that Sefton Council has coaxed £450,000 from its primary care trust to build 40 outdoor gyms in parks.
NHS chief knowledge officer Sir Muir Gray said: "Outdoor spaces around hospitals used to be common, accessible to patients and residents, particularly in mental health settings.
"Yet the benefits of spending time outdoors have been increasingly overlooked as the emphasis on creating a sterile environment indoors has developed."
The guide builds on research and experience demonstrating that designing outdoor spaces can have a therapeutic function, be cost-effective, speed recovery and generate savings.
In my view
"This guidance is a welcome contribution to efforts to make the health benefits of green space available to people not just where they live but also where they are treated for mental and physical ill health and injury. They really can contribute positively to treatment programmes."
Pam Warhurst, chair, Forestry Commission.