Published On: Thu, Feb 29th, 2024

GPS say planting more trees will ease burden on NHS | Nature | News

GPs believe planting more trees could help reduce the financial burden on the NHS, a poll has found.

The survey of 255 doctors from practices across the country showed 94% are calling for more trees around urban schools to combat lung diseases like asthma while 77% backed more shrubbery to ease pressure on the health service.

Seven in 10 doctors surveyed by the Woodland Trust said they should be able to prescribe time out in nature to ensure the health of future generations.

Dr Darren Moorcroft, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said: “This powerful research, from trusted medical professionals, shows the need to prioritise the environment to reduce the burden on the NHS and save lives.

“Policymakers must take heed of these results. A startling 96% of GPs – who are on the frontline of healthcare in this country – want environmental issues moved up the political agenda.

“They recognise the potentially life-giving benefits of a cleaner, greener world, ever more important due to the greater effects of climate change – and want their patients to be able to access those benefits more easily.”

Climate change is causing more extreme weather conditions, with heatwaves claiming thousands of lives each year. 

Trees can help reduce temperatures on the ground by up to 12 degrees.

Doubling urban tree cover from 15% to 30% could lower average city temperatures by 0.4°C, and in some areas by as much as 5.9°C, potentially saving thousands of lives.

Trish Goodwin, Link Worker for Bolton GP Federation said: “This poll clearly shows how GPs value the important role of nature and the environment in helping to reduce the pressure on their services and the NHS in general, with the changing climate we believe it should be a priority. 

“From our perspective, people that attend green projects, such as walking in rural locations, report an improvement in physical health symptoms, and state that there is a significant improvement in their mental wellbeing. 

“It is critical that patients living in urban and high pollution areas have access to woodland and green spaces to improve both their physical and mental health.”

With a general election looming, the Woodland Trust is calling on political parties to make increasing native tree cover a long-term target.

Dr Moorcroft said: “We know it’s going to take more than trees to solve the climate crisis, but we won’t have a world worth living in without billions more of them. We have made it our mission here in the UK to plant 50 million more trees by 2030.

“Woods and trees make us healthy and happy. They lock up carbon, fight the effects of climate change, improve our health and wellbeing and reduce pollution and flooding, protecting nature, people and our planet. This is why we are asking for people to support our climate campaign to plant more trees.”

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