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Evaluation of Blue Prescribing at WWT London Wetland Centre

In 2021, the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), in partnership with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) received a one-year grant from Simplyhealth (a private health insurance company) to deliver a nature-based self-management programme at the WWT London Wetland Centre in Barnes, West London.

Logos for Simply Health, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Mental Health Foundation, arranged horizonatally in a banner.

The programme looked to support people experiencing mild to moderate poor mental health, with a focus on those who were less likely to have access to natural green and blue spaces. At its core, peer support is about the relationships that people build as they share their own experiences to help and support each other. Peer support can develop in any setting, as a structured activity, or more informally.

The course content built upon the self-management approach delivered by MHF, using nature-based activities.

  • Each Blue Prescribing course was delivered over a 6-week period.
  • The group sizes ranged 3-10 and were facilitated by MHF and WWT project staff, thereby creating a peer support setting.
  • Course content and materials were co-produced by people with lived experiences of poor mental health and were delivered through a mix of indoor and outdoor sessions.
An overhead view of WWT London Wetland Centre in Barnes, West London, showing the extent of the site.

About the evaluation

To support MHF and WWT in assessing the implementation and impact of the Blue Prescribing programme at the London Wetland Centre, M·E·L Research were commissioned to carry out an independent evaluation to understand the implementation and outcomes of the pilot programme.

Our design approach and data collection

The evaluation used a mixed method approach, collecting both quantitative and qualitative data via weekly paper diaries followed by in-depth discussions with beneficiaries after the course. One to one depth interviews were carried out with participants, external organisations such as referral partners, link workers etc. and delivery staff.

A group of four participants stand near a pond, under some trees. One of the participants is taking a picture. All are wearing waterproof clothing in shades of blue.

Our findings

Our evaluation found that the programme offered a different way of supporting people’s wellbeing in addition to more standard techniques such as CBT, talking therapies etc.

Using nature-based activities and enabling social connections was a key element to mental health improvements for beneficiaries – whilst the self-management approach, which built upon tools and techniques beneficiaries could use to manage their wellbeing, was not always top of mind in discussion of beneficiaries’ experiences of the programme.

The evaluation also identified five key recommendations for future programme delivery. The findings of the evaluation were disseminated through regular shared learning with the delivery team, an interim and final report which can be viewed here.

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