Gardening should be available on the NHS

Friday 14 November 2014

Royal Horticultural Society John MacLeod Lecturers explore the health benefits of gardening

A UK doctor and a leading Swedish scientist have made the case for gardening and horticulture to be available on the NHS, during the fourth annual Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) John MacLeod Lecture.
Speakers Dr William Bird and Dr Matilda van den Bosch spoke to an audience that included RHS Director General Sue Biggs and RHS members about the interactions between nature and human health and how gardening may contribute to increased wellbeing and quality of life.

Dr Bird, who has 30 years’ experience as a GP in Reading, and Dr van den Bosch, who is a medical doctor, a researcher at the Swedish University of Agriculture, and a consultant for the World Health Organisation, spoke at the RHS’ Lindley Hall on 13 November.

Among the arguments the speakers put forward to support their assertion was that access to green spaces and gardens promote physical activity and that when people undertake physical activity outdoors they are more likely to stick with it, and even work harder, than if they did the same activity indoors.

They also argued that contact with plants provides a sense of place, a way for humans to connect to their environment and their place in life, which is critical for mental wellbeing.

Speaking about the impact horticulture and gardening can have on health Dr Van Den Bosch said: “Apart from preventing diseases, horticulture and horticulture therapy are used to treat many conditions of ill-health, including cancer rehabilitation, depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and various behavioural disturbances.

“There is now enough evidence to include gardening and nature in the health care agenda. The key point is that gardening, plants and horticultural activities are excellent tools for creating a healthier society where the costs of health care and human suffering can be substantially reduced.”

Dr Bird was strident in his belief that the NHS could make considerable financial savings if horticulture therapy could be developed to the standard of other health interventions, he said: “We could see benefits of at least £5 health benefit for every £1 spent. Since about £60 billion is spent on long term conditions, 80% of which could be prevented by a healthier lifestyle, there is a significant incentive to develop a programme that includes horticulture.”

For more information on the lecture and to watch a video please visit:  


Notes to editors

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

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood for the encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture. We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, our flagship garden, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity.

Today the RHS is committed to providing a voice for all gardeners. We are driven by a simple love of plants and a belief that gardeners make the world a better place. 210 years on we continue to safeguard and advance the science, art and practice of horticulture, creating displays that inspire people to garden. In all aspects of our work we help gardeners develop by sharing our knowledge of plants, gardens and the environment.

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262



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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