The Natural Environment White Paper The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 2011) sets out the need to strengthen the connection between people and nature. However, it acknowledges that the opportunities to benefit from spending time in the natural environment are currently not open to everyone, which can contribute to health and other inequalities. Natural England is committed to increasing the number and range of people who can experience and benefit from access to the natural environment, and through the Outdoors for All Programme is leading the Government’s ambition that ‘everyone should have fair access to a good quality natural environment’.
The prevalence of mental ill-health is on the rise in the UK with an estimated one in four people experiencing a ‘significant’ mental health problem in any one year. With prescriptions at record levels and a huge demand for other therapies, health and social care commissioners are examining and commissioning different options. With increasing recognition of the importance of nature and place as a determinant of individuals’ mental health, organisations providing nature-based interventions are working with a wide range of vulnerable groups throughout the UK. These nature-based interventions could be part of a new solution for mental health care, however increasing the awareness of, and access to, these interventions is challenging.
This new research builds on the findings from earlier Natural England reports listed below and explores the options for improving the commissioning of, and referral to, these services as well as scaling-up the provision of nature-based interventions.