A GP surgery is prescribing ALLOTMENTS to help treat patients with stress and mobility issues.
May Lane Surgery is offering gardening spaces to people with social isolation or muscle and joint pain to get them fitter – and onto a healthy diet.
Doctors say they have previously been recommending exercise or the gym – but allotments come with the added benefit of an improved diet full of fruit and veg.
Patients can make a cup of tea, chat, meet others and develop bonds and grow cabbages, cauliflowers, leaks, red onions, carrots, potatoes, radishes, and herbs.
Dr Simon Opher, of the surgery in Dursley, Glos., says medical experts “sometimes medicalise problems which have a different solution”.
He says the allotments are to assist with traditional treatments such as medicine which remain effective.
He said: “Sometimes I think doctors can medicalise problems which have a different solution.
“Diet and exercise are as important as most drugs. It’s good to get your hands dirty and it’s good to be outside.
“The process is someone would come to see you as a doctor and they would perhaps have mental health issue such as depression.
“Sometimes they might be isolated and lonely – others may have had a heart attack and might feel worried about doing exercise again.
“We have evaluated the patients response and it is interesting to see their progress, physically and mentally.
“There is an improvement in their social isolation and improvement in diet.
“There seems to be a perceived change in their diet; they are all growing organic vegetables and eating them which is interesting.”
The allotments were built by Down To Earth Stroud, a not for profit community organisation, over the last two years, at a cost of 25K.
There are 41 plots – and the GP surgery is currently using five with plans to use ten more.
Other health practitioners in the area, including physiotherapists and occupational therapists, can also prescribe an allotment.
It has been used to treat patients with mental health issues such as depression – and recovery from physical illness including heart attacks and neuromuscular diseases.
The raised beds are 16ft by 4ft and can be used by people in wheelchairs.
Most patients using them are over 50 with some around the age of 30. They tend to visit up to three times a week.
The surgery started prescribing the allotments two years ago. One bed is sponsored by Macmillan for patients who are recovering from cancer.
Patient Robin Deane, 73, suffers with a rare incurable condition called myasthenia gravis which left him trapped in his house until the prescription.
Robin, who spent days stuck in his armchair watching people walk past his window, says he contemplated suicide in his darkest moment.
But his prescribed allotment has transformed his life – and he thinks it should be introduced across the UK.
The retired great-grandad-of-one and granddad-of-ten, who worked in motor-engineering for 50 years, said: “I was bound to a chair because I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t see, I was fed through a tube and I couldn’t lift my hands from my chair.
“You don’t know it until you are in this situation, stuck in a chair watching people walk past through the window, but you can’t do anything and you have people waiting on you hand and foot.
“I did contemplate committing suicide because I felt like there was nobody I could open up to about it.
“Luckily I have a very good doctor. I would spend most of my time in a wheelchair until 2018 thanks to the allotment.
“At the allotment I am able to see people and be active.
“It would be great if the allotment scheme could be rolled out across the UK – it would improve the lives of so many elderly people.
The dad-of-four, from Stroud, Glos., added: “I still use the wheelchair, for example in supermarkets, but I can get out of it at the allotments and move around.
“I now have somewhere I can go where I’m safe and feel like I’m being useful because I’m growing vegetables and doing something.
“I’m not sitting looking out of a window and going crazy.”