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Frome’s contribution to wellbeing, biodiversity and closing the loop

Charlotte Carson is a Green Health Connector for Frome Medical Practice, working on the Green & Healthy Future for Frome programme. Email: somicb.frome.wellbeinggarden @nhs.net

For us here at Frome Medical Practice, our new raised beds on site are not just a space to fill with pretty flowers where there used to be plain turf. Our outdoor space is about staff wellbeing, enriching local biodiversity, and contributing to a closed loop system on site. The Staff Wellbeing Garden embodies Frome Medical Practice’s core values of responsibility, sustainability, and learning.

Staff wellbeing

Named the Staff Wellbeing Garden for good reason, the space is easy to access and visible from any part of the building. The space creates valuable, stress-free minutes of pause for our 140 clinical and non-clinical staff. The on-site social prescribing team, Health Connections Mendip, lead garden and local lunchtime walks to support staff wellbeing. Our First Contact Practitioner, Natali Jones, says:

‘The use of the garden not only provides me with peace and serenity at work but it has also been a source to be able to socialise (initially from a distance!) with fellow gardeners. The well-being garden is always somewhere that I can go to check my flowers, do some de-weeding, grow seedlings and nurture my plants. These activities are so simple yet for me give me sometimes a much-needed bit of headspace distraction from the stresses of life. Seeing flowers blooming or new insects buzzing around the garden allow me to re-connect with nature and evoke feeling of accomplishment and happiness for me.’

Community and education

The visibility of the hot composters lends itself to a simple patient learning resource and we have installed patient information screens to start further conversation with the community. The Staff Wellbeing Garden shows the value of local green spaces and individual health along with the joys of field-to-fork food production and the importance of our local biodiversity. This project has also amplified our relationship with the local non-profit community nursery, The Walled Garden at Mells, who are supporting us by increasing our wildflowers on site.

Closing the loop

With the generous support of building owners, Assura — and the expertise of local community composting group, Loop:Frome, we have recently installed two hot composters on site. Staff food scraps were previously sent to landfill and now we have the means to convert this into nutrient rich compost for our Staff Wellbeing Garden. Not only will we be saving carbon and precious space but we will be transforming what was once seen as waste back into our gardens!

What next …

We are planning regular and informal educational sessions for staff on composting, gardening, and using the outdoor space for other social events. We are looking forward to increasing our composting capacity when our on-site café reopens post COVID-19 restrictions, along with capturing and repurposing rainwater to use in the Staff Wellbeing Garden.

In the summer months we also have regular staff wellbeing walks and tours around the Staff Wellbeing Garden, which we will open up for occasional public visits too. We have written up an exciting proposal for the council-owned land alongside the practice for a community healing garden, with a community consultation in the pipeline. We have also recently registered on the NHS Forest website, an expanding network of green spaces across the UK.

A lot of this work has been possible due to having funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, A Green & Healthy Future for Frome programme, but mainly due to the committed time put in by staff, particularly Gareth Hannam, Digital, Data & Technology Manager at Frome Medical Practice, who drove the project forwards. This project is just in its beginnings, and we would love to hear about what other health centres are doing to reduce their impact on the planet and encourage biodiversity along with staff wellbeing.

Further reading
Loop:Frome — https://loopfrome.org
Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Explaining the circular economy: re-thinking progress — https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/videos/explaining-the-circular-economy-rethink-progress
Walled Garden | The Walled Garden at Mells | Frome — https://www.thewalledgardenatmells.co.uk
Health Connections Mendip — https://healthconnectionsmendip.org
Green & Healthy Future for Frome — https://greenhealthyfuturefrome.org

Thank you to Hannah Carding for providing her illustrations. You can find more of Hannah’s work at her website: https://www.hannahcarding.com

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