North Benfleet hospital staff and patients nominated for top environmental award

Mick Ferris

Green fingered staff and patients at St Andrew’s Hospital in North Benfleet have been shortlisted for a top environmental award.

The Growing Spaces to Grow project has been nominated for an Environmental Sustainability Award at the Health Services Journal (HSJ) Awards 2021, having been selected from more than 1,000 entries.

The prestigious awards programme aims to highlight projects which have a demonstrable environmental impact, while offering benefits to both staff and patients.

The project is a green space which was created from recycled materials and features a green gym, polytunnel, wood store and raised flower beds.

It has a low-carbon footprint and has made use of donations from local charities and recycling organisations from within the local area.

Some of the planters were made from light fittings and the bike shed was constructed using recycled plywood board.

Annymn Adams, the lead occupational therapist, and a vital part of the Growing Spaces to Grow project, said: “We started this project to help our service users build confidence and achieve qualifications, while promoting a healthy lifestyle.

“Our hospital in Essex had a piece of overgrown land and over the past three years we’ve transformed it, using 80 per cent recycled materials which were all sourced within a 15 mile radius, into a sustainable garden and therapeutic space.

“The project has expanded and now our patients can enjoy the use of our garden which also supports their emotional needs. Gardening and being outside gives our patients an opportunity to engage in self-soothing and multi-sensory activities, such as gardening, cloud watching, and outdoor yoga in an appropriate, off-ward environment.”

The project is led by service users and the hospital’s horticulture specialist Graham Maynard and together they have started growing plants and vegetables.

Annymn said: “There’s plenty of space for growing items. Previously, we purchased plants – now our patients and staff grow them from seed and take cuttings from our existing plants. Gradually we are creating wildlife habitat areas around our hospital site, encouraging more birds, bees and butterflies into the area.

“We’re also using donated water butts to harvest rain water and recycling our garden waste to make our own compost to fertilise the soil. Our plan is to expand so we can start to compost all our kitchen waste too.

“The benefits are longer lasting than the planting season, as service users have been able to get involved with growing seedlings and creating small construction projects in conjunction with undertaking certified courses at our education department. By planting vegetables on site, the hospital is also promoting healthy food decisions and helping patients to get excited about meal preparation.”

The judging panel who selected the shortlisted award entries included highly influential and respected figures within the healthcare community, including Sir Bruce Keogh, chair of the Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and Marie Gabriel CBE, chair of NHS Race and Health Observatory.

The winners will be announced during the awards ceremony at Evolution, London on November 18.

Mick Ferris

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