Could Horticulture Hold the Key to Easing the Pressure on the NHS?

Friday 1 July 2016

Landmark conference aims to unify opinion on the best way to present the case for gardening

A leading group of UK horticultural organisations is bringing together representatives from the worlds of public health, politics, academia and horticulture to develop a shared vision of the role horticulture can play in the treatment of some chronic health conditions.

The Health and Horticulture Conference, which will take place at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on 4 July, is the first time that such a range of experts have come together to look at the most effective way of making the case for horticulture to be a widespread treatment available across the NHS.

Organised by the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable group, which is made up of leaders from the UK’s £10 billion ornamental horticulture industry and includes the RHS, the Horticultural Trades Association and the NFU*, the conference is the culmination of a year’s work by the group to build bridges between the sector, the medical profession and policy makers.

Among the 15 speakers on the day will be the former CEO of the National Health Service, Lord Crisp, who will open the conference; Dr Justin Varney from Public Health England; Dr William Bird, who is a GP with a special interest in the promotion of physical activity and the creator of the ‘Green Gym’ concept; award winning garden designer Chris Beardshaw and Gavin Atkins from mental Health charity Mind.

The conference will take place against a backdrop of spiralling costs across the NHS for the treatment of conditions such as obesity, heart diseases and some mental health issues. At present 40% of the Department of Health budget is focused on tackling these conditions. Almost £50 billion is spent by the NHS on managing chronic conditions that could be alleviated by the adoption of healthier lifestyles.

Speaking about the conference and the role horticulture therapy can play in the fight against chronic health conditions, RHS Director of Science Dr Alistair Griffiths said: “There is a growing acknowledgement that horticulture and gardening can play an important role in alleviating the impact of conditions including obesity and dementia, but this hasn’t been translated into a growth in commissioning services in this area.

“By bringing together interested parties we hope to not only share a wide range of opinions about the impact gardening can have on health outcomes, but also break down the barriers that have kept potential allies apart. The reality is we all want the same thing, we are just going about it in different ways.

“We hope that by creating a set of principles that we can all agree with, research in this area will be better coordinated, better focused and more robust, which will benefit patients, doctors and UK’s health infrastructure.”

For more information please contact Garfield Myrie in the RHS Press Office on 020 7821 3060 or


Notes to editors

Origins of the Health and Horticulture Conference
The UK Horticulture sector, via the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable group, made a commitment to deliver a health and Horticulture conference in its 2015-2020 Action Plan.

In the Action Plan document the Roundtable group promised to: host a ‘Health and Horticulture
Forum’ with Government representation that would lead to the development of a health and horticulture strategy.

The Group promised to research the benefits of horticulture and provide horticultural information and expertise to underpin future plans and activities.

Please use the following link to view the Action Plan.

*The organisations behind the development of the conference are: the British Association of Landscape Industries, the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, Grow Careers, AHDB Horticulture, the Horticulture Innovations Partnership, the Horticultural Trades Association, Landex, Lantra, the National Farmers Union, the Royal Horticultural Society and Young Hort.

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood to inspire passion and excellence in the science, art and practice of horticulture. Our vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener, healthier, happier and more beautiful place. We believe everyone in every village, town and city should benefit from growing plants to enhance lives, build stronger, healthier, happier communities and create better places to live.

The RHS is committed to bring the joy of gardening to millions more people, inspire the next generation of gardeners and invest in the future to safeguard a £10.4 billion industry employing more than 300,000 people. We are entirely funded by our members, visitors and supporters. RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening.

Support the RHS and help us secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 020 3176 5820, or visit

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262


Latest press releases

About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262