The Natural Health Service (NaHS) Consortium welcomed 150 commissioners and practitioners to a conference on 9 May 2017 at Liverpool John Moores University to showcase its achievements and discuss how the service could be developed across the UK.
The conference was funded by The Big Potential, part of the Big Lottery, and managed by the Social Investment Business. This aims to improve the sustainability, capacity and scale of organisations in order that they may deliver greater social impact.
The Natural Health Service is working with Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Liverpool to create a long-term research programme, a Centre of Excellence for Natural Health Service Research, that is set to influence policy and support for health and wellbeing in green environments.
The NaHS is evidence based and uses academic research to develop programmes and track impact on the community.
Key findings included how NaHS can offer options for patients who are otherwise big users of NHS services. This can reduce pressure on NHS services, and enables GPs in particular to offer support to some patients for whom there are no other helpful options.
Academics from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences (RISES), which is currently celebrating 20 years of cutting-edge research activity, showcased their approach, challenges and achievements, and provided practical resources for commissioners and practitioners to develop the Natural Health Service in their locality.
Paul Nolan, Director of The Mersey Forest Team who provide the core functions for the Natural Health Service, said: “The Mersey Forest Team have worked closely with LJMU for nearly 20 years. Over the past eight years we have developed a strong partnership focussed on education health projects. I think the relationship works really well. The Mersey Forest is a living laboratory, as we work with communities, create new woodland and plant new trees there are opportunities to test new ways of working and measure our impact. As a world leading university, LJMU provide us with expertise, robust data and excellent academic papers that not only provide the underpinning evidence base for our future work, but hopefully help to show that impact of LJMU research in society.”
Dr Zoe Knowles, who is based at the LJMU Physical Activity Exchange said: “Liverpool John Moores University, like the Community Forest Trust and The Mersey Forest, have a vision and mission to improve health and wellbeing. Together we have a shared focus on how the natural environment can play a role in achieving that. The Centre of Excellence has been formed around shared principles, values, models and governance and we are proud to be one of the founder members of this Centre providing skills and expertise to ensure robust evaluation of the Natural Health Service portfolio.”