Scotland’s NHS charities: funding wellbeing, supported by the natural environment

A 10% increase in exposure to greenspace translates into a reduction of five years in age in terms of expected health problems.

The autumn webinar of this Edinburgh Napier University series considered the role of Scotland’s NHS charities in grant-making to support human and environmental wellbeing.

Webinar host Julie Hutchison, Visiting Professor in Governance and Innovation, was joined by two guests in November:

  • Julie Christie, Scotland Co-ordinator, Environmental Funders Network
  • Mairi Ferris, Fund Manager, Thrive Outdoors, Inspiring Scotland

Reflecting first on the charitable purposes of the NHS charities in Scotland, and what kind of projects are legally within scope for funding, it is helpful to have a reminder of the National Health Service (Scotland) 1978 Act. This Act makes reference to the prevention of illness and the improvement in the physical and mental health of the people of Scotland. This webinar explored the links between a healthier environment and all of these charitable purposes.

Ideas were shared on how grounds and estate around health board buildings might be used differently, with potential collaborative projects involving an NHS health board, the linked-NHS charity and other partners.

A follow-up resource is listed below, looking at how one NHS charity in Scotland has explored the health board’s greenspace in more detail, with a view to supporting how the potential of that greenspace is realised as an amenity to improve community health and wellbeing.

The importance of greenspace on physical and mental wellbeing was brought home to everyone during the covid-related lockdowns. In her contribution, Julie Christie set out further examples of the links between human health and environmental wellbeing. Mairi Ferris then considered this in the context of a case study involving outdoor play for children. Playing outdoors is fundamental for children and young people to thrive in health, wellbeing and development.

One statistic highlighted by Julie Christie was from a study which concluded that every 10% increase in exposure to greenspace translates into a reduction of five years in age in terms of expected health problems. For NHS charities in Scotland looking to develop a strand of their strategy which looks at prevention and early intervention, this is certainly worth reflecting on.

The webinar is available to watch again here:

Further resources for follow-up

  • Greenspace and Health programme, NHS Lothian charity:
  • Public Health Scotland blog on greenspace visits during the pandemic
  • National Position Statement on Outdoor Play & Learning and sign-up link
  • Report by the Wildlife Trusts on children, nature and wellbeing:
  • EFN’s Healthy Planet, Healthy People series of webinars, podcasts and blog
  • Impact on Urban Health: creating a design-led approach to air pollution around hospital settings with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
  • For more information about the Environmental Funders Network in Scotland, please contact
  • For more information about Thrive Outdoors, please contact

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