Patients with chronic pain and other long-term conditions will be "prescribed" a list of seasonal outdoor activities such as listening to birdsong as a pilot project is extended to Orkney. 

The 'Nature Prescriptions' initiative has previously been trialled in Edinburgh and Shetland as a way of improving patients physical and mental wellbeing by engaging more with nature. 

It will be jointly run by the RSPB Scotland and conservation programme Species on the Edge.

Under the scheme, a healthcare professional will give patients a Nature Prescription Calendar which contains suggestions of seasonal activities they can try to help them connect to nature, while talking them through the potential benefits to their mental and physical wellbeing.


A growing body of evidence finds that a strong connection with the natural world is associated with improved immune function, memory and concentration, as well as reduced stress, better sleep quality, and lower levels of anxiety, depression, and respiratory illnesses. 

The Nature Prescription initiative was first trialled in Shetland and in five GP practices across Edinburgh.

Three quarters (74%) of participants reported beneficial effects, and 91% of prescribing health professionals stated that they would continue to offer Nature Prescriptions.

One patient who took part in the trial in Edinburgh said: “It is easy to forget just how helpful going for a walk in the woods, beach or park lifts your spirits, especially with 'life' getting in the way.

"Having the 'permission' to take time out and reconnect with nature has made a huge difference.

"It is a powerful and deep emotional tonic that does help, as simple and basic as it may seem.”

Dr Richard Brunt, a GP at the Skerryvore Practice in Kirkwall, said he and his colleagues were looking forward to offering patients the newly developed Nature Prescriptions Calendar for Orkney. 

He added: "We are confident that nature prescribing will enhance our management of a wide range of physical and mental health conditions.

"Patients are therefore encouraged to ask their doctor or nurse about nature prescribing during discussion of treatment options for any new or long-term health condition.”

Patients will be encouraged to take time out for 'meaningful' engagement with naturePatients will be encouraged to take time out for 'meaningful' engagement with nature (Image: PA)

Suggested activities in the Orkney calendar include listening out for different bird calls, selecting an outdoor spot close to home to regularly sit with nature, and keeping a ‘nature diary’.

Samantha Stringer, an engagement officer for Species on the Edge in Orkney, said the initiative was designed to help people "slow down" and become "more mindful".

She added: “We hope that Nature Prescriptions can provide personal and meaningful connections, improving physical and mental wellbeing and complementing other health interventions.

"We have included accessible activities for a range of patients and conditions which may include mental health, chronic pain, and long-term health issues.

“Each month there are ten activities to try, many of which can be done simply from a window, a small garden, or in a local area.

"And this year Species on the Edge are going beyond the calendar to run a series of free wellbeing events linked to some of the monthly activity suggestions.”

Laura Skaife-Knight, NHS Orkney Chief Executive, said: "We are in the fortunate position of having lots of outdoor space with so many beautiful areas to explore.

"I'd like to thank everyone involved in developing this Prescription Calendar.

"I look forward to seeing it benefit many members of our local community and the positive difference it will make.”