The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon David Cameron MP, has planted a tree at the Warneford hospital in Oxford to mark NHS sustainability day.

The day, which takes place on 27 March, celebrates the efforts of NHS Trusts and other healthcare organisations across the country to implement carbon reduction and sustainable practices within their workplace and community. NHS Forest, a project run by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, donated trees to Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, who committed to planting them across their sites in the coming years. The Prime Minister kindly agreed to come to the Warneford hospital, in his role as local Oxfordshire MP, to jointly plant the first tree with the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Professor Dame Sue Bailey.

warneford cameron: Picture: Ric Mellis

The Prime Minister plants a tree with President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Dame Sue Bailey

It was also an occasion to celebrate work taking place at the trust and with partner organisations to help people with mental health issues benefit from outdoor spaces. The Prime Minister had introduced the trust to L.O.V.E Care Farm, a local group who help people affected by mental health issues get closer to nature. The trust is now collaborating with members of the group and other partners to develop initiatives that see mental health patients use and enjoy nature as part of their recovery.

It is widely recognised that there is a close relationship between good mental health and engaging with nature: evidence suggests that green spaces can play an important role in directly reducing mental health symptoms. Spending time in natural areas is associated with reduced stress and anxiety and can lead to reduced psychotic symptoms. Children exposed to green settings feel more relaxed and have improved cognitive functioning and social connectedness. Later in life, exposure to the natural environment is associated with decreased agitation and aggression in late stage dementia patients.

warneford cameron: Picture: Ric MellisPrime Minister Rt Hon David Cameron MP said: “I am delighted to be able to join everyone here today as we celebrate NHS sustainability. NHS trusts, such as Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, can play an important role in contributing to reducing the country’s carbon footprint. Some of the initiatives I have been very interested to hear about today include the tree-planting programme and also a project that helps people affected by mental health issues reap real benefits from the natural environment. I congratulate the trust and its partners for this excellent work that contributes to a lower carbon NHS.”

Chief Executive Stuart Bell said: “We are delighted that the Prime Minister could join us today to celebrate this initiative and our commitment to plant trees donated by NHS Forest. We also are fortunate to have a large green space, the Warneford Meadow, right next to the hospital site. We look forward to working with partners and neighbours to use this area for the benefit of our patients.”

President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Dame Sue Bailey said: “Most people know now that physical activity can be an effective supplement to treatment in mild and moderate depression and anxiety disorders. But, direct contact with nature also leads to a greater sense of connectedness with the community. Sustainable healthcare will also need to feature prominently in any future mental health service so I fully support Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust’s commitment to using this meadow as a recovery space for patients.”

Rachel Stancliffe, Director of The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare said: “The NHS Forest project is hugely popular with staff, patients and community and opens the door to the important health benefits of the natural environment with the symbolic act of planting a tree.”