The need for Hospital Gardens

There are over 125 million hospital admissions, outpatient  and accident and emergency attendances each year in the UK. Add to this over 1.3 million NHS staff members and many more visitors and the amount of footfall through our hospitals and clinics is vast - easily double the total UK population each year.

Hospitals can be highly stressful environments - the combination of health worries and busy, unfamiliar, confusing environments is a potent one.

There is increasing evidence that views of, and opportunities to access, the natural environment play a key part in shortening admissions, improving patient recovery and improving staff health and morale.

It is vital that in our increasingly densely built hospital environments, any green spaces are treasured and fully used. And yet with hospital budgets increasingly squeezed, these green spaces can often get overlooked and under-maintained.

Art Garden Health offers hospitals the following:

  • We fundraise alongside a hospital's charitable trust, receiving donations and grants, ensuring no costs come out of the public purse.

  • We work with key stakeholder groups to obtain a wide range of perspectives that inform our design process. 

  • We provide design services, commission and deliver suitable artworks, hard and soft landscaping.

  • We set up sustainable maintenance plans and initiate a maintenance team to provide long term support for the resulting garden.

I shall never forget the rapture of fever patients over a bunch of bright-coloured flowers” .....people say the effect is only on the mind. It is no such thing. The effect is on the body too.
— Florence Nightingale 1860
But for one’s health as you say, it is very necessary to work in the garden and see the flowers growing.
— Garden of the Hospital in Arles, Vincent van Gogh 1889

Evidence of Benefits

Why Every Hospital Should Have a Garden

A study published by architect Roger Ulrich in Science in 1984, found that a view of trees out of a window had a positive effect on patients. He found that patients whose windows look out on to a nature scene stayed in hospital for a shorter length of time and took fewer painkillers than the patients in similar rooms whose window faced a brick wall. The benefits of this are not only for the patient, but have economic implications. Fewer painkillers and shorter hospital stays can save money as well as help patients recover faster.

In the twenty-first century a garden is the element most likely to give a ‘natural’ view from a window. The British Medical Association discussed the importance of views, access to light and hospital gardens in January 2011. In The Psychological and Social Needs of Patients, the BMA argue that hospital design should take into account the important therapeutic role of gardens. The environment is hopefully once again being seen as relevant for the well being of patients.

Gardens can act as important spaces that connect the hospital with the wider world. They allow people to spend time in a recognisable setting and can provide privacy and space away from the often crowded and noisy wards. These elements are all important whether you are a patient,a visitor, or you work in a hospital.

Why Every Hospital Should Have a Garden, Wellcome Trust 2013

You can read the full article here

Autonomic nervous system responses to viewing green and built settings:

This laboratory study explored buffering and recovery effects of viewing urban green and built spaces on autonomic nervous system activity. The findings provide support for greater recovery after viewing green scenes, as marked by a stronger increase in RSA as a marker of parasympathetic activity. 

NCBI 2015

You can read the full study here

Gardens and Health - implications for policy and practice

In 2016 The Kings Fund produced an independent report on the benefits of gardens and gardening on health. This report has three aims:

To bring together in one place and make sense of the wide range of literature on gardens and wellbeing, demonstrating how gardens and gardening are related to health across the life course, from schools to family life and older age.

To demonstrate how gardening interventions have an important place in the NHS and wider health and care system, particularly given the focus on greater integration of health services, social care and prevention, and on working with people as citizens within communities rather than just patients.

To place 'gardens and health' within the current strategic health policy context, proposing recommendations on how gardening - if brought into the mainstream - can be an important mechanism for reaching health policy goals, nationally and locally.

You can read the full report here


The NHS Forest is a project coordinated by the charity, the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare. Funded by charitable trusts, corporate and individual sponsorship, the project’s central aims are to:

  • improve the health and wellbeing of staff, patients and communities through increasing access to green space on or near to NHS land
  • encourage greater social cohesion between NHS sites and the local communities around them
  • spark projects that bring together professionals and volunteers to use new and existing woodland for art, food crops, reflective or exercise spaces and to encourage biodiversity
  • highlight innovative ideas to encourage the use of green space for therapeutic purposes 

Evidence of Benefits:

  • Accelerated patient recovery
  • Improved community health
  • Greater social cohesion
  • Ecological benefits
  • Economic costs

You can read the full article here