The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Leeds Hospitals staff harness the wellbeing benefits of gardening

26 July 2022

Staff at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have participated in a Growing Well Social and Therapeutic Horticulture pilot.

The nine-week programme was open to staff who were feeling overwhelmed, tired, stressed or anxious and provided a safe space to focus on personal wellbeing and restoration.

Staff had time away from their busy roles for three-hour weekly sessions at St James's Hospital. The educational focus was on learning sustainable food-growing methods, sowing seeds, working together to create new garden areas, and ultimately harvesting and preparing the food they helped grow. 

The sessions featured nature-based wellbeing techniques and focused on the benefits of gardening on mental health and how it can boost a person's mood, reduce stress and promote improved personal resilience. 

Dame Linda Pollard, Chair of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, visited the garden and said, "The health and wellbeing of our staff is something we take very seriously, so to have a project like this on Trust grounds is wonderful. It's incredible what has been grown in such a short time. We hope to run similar projects across all our sites, so staff and patients can connect with nature and benefit from its positive impact on wellbeing."

People smiling in a garden

The programme was a collaboration between the Trust's sustainability and health and wellbeing teams and Lemon Balm, a local social enterprise specialising in gardening for wellbeing. Healthy seasonal lunches were cooked on site by the local food-growing social enterprise, Season Well, and Leeds Hospital Charity supported the project by allowing the use of their wellbeing shed to sow seeds and grow tomatoes.

Improving biodiversity features heavily in the Trust's Green Plan, and the garden has not only improved its green spaces; it also aligns with the NHS's commitment to social prescribing by creating opportunities for staff to benefit from the healing effects of nature.

Female sowing seeds in a flower bed

"Isabel Swift, from Lemon Balm, said, "We're really proud to have created this garden and programme with the Trust. It's been a privilege to work with wonderful NHS staff and give them a little space to put themselves first and work on ways to recharge from such busy caring roles. Our delivery partners Season Well supported the programme amazingly by creating seasonal food and recipes with the produce grown, another sustainability win!"

Feedback from staff who participated was overwhelmingly positive, with all agreeing that it had an enormous impact on their health and wellbeing. They learned new skills and have a greater understanding of the importance of connecting with nature to de-stress and live well.

Olivia Kenyon, a Macmillan Highly Specialist Speech & Language Therapist at the Trust, championed the project and said, "I'm so proud of what we've achieved to recognise the importance of staff wellbeing and enhance our hospital green space. I'm looking forward to strengthening the project with the support of our local community and some renowned horticultural organisations so that more people can benefit from this compassionate workplace initiative".