Broomfield Hospital case study
Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford (Acute General): Case Study
Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust has developed a project to manage two woodland areas in the grounds of Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford. Puddings Wood is a beautiful ancient woodland and Long Shapely Belt is an amenity plantation some 80 years old. This project is part of a Section 106 planning obligation in relation to the new hospital development.
Planning obligations for the hospital development required “the woodlands to be kept in reasonable condition as an amenity for the quiet enjoyment of the public and to protect its natural habitats and encourage its regeneration”.
However, the Trust realised this was also an opportunity to engage with the community and make their woodlands relevant to the effective running of the hospital, in line with their corporate objective to “enhance the patient experience and make their stay as comfortable as possible”.They did this by creating a steering group comprising of patient representatives, hospital staff, local authority and volunteer groups.
In 2009 the Trust embarked on a 10 year management plan to protect the woods, promote wildlife, provide opportunities for staff, visitors and patients to enjoy the woodlands as a place of informal recreation and peace, whilst also engaging the local community and making the woods useful and relevant again.
So far they have:
- undertaken surveys for public safety, ecology, management and current uses;
- addressed tree safety issues, applied for Tree Preservation Orders, applied for Forestry Commission grants;
- set up volunteer groups, started some hazel coppicing, installed benches, signs, footbridge, bird and bat boxes;
- started sculpture trails and temporary art installations;
- offered commemorative trees and benches to the public;
- run tree events with MENCAP.
The woods are now available for many different people and purposes, from a quiet stroll to hands-on work, from commemoration to celebration, from wildlife reserve to community resource and plans are underway for a disabled access ramp, a remembrance glade, forest school activities, and further festivities.
Previously seldom visited and attracting a degree of anti-social activities, the woods are now seen as a positive asset and form an integral and important part of the hospital site. The woods are used by a wide range of people, including staff on their lunch-time break, and are available for many different purposes, from a quiet stroll to hands-on work, from commemoration to celebration, from wildlife reserve to community resource.
What are the health benefits?
Trees and woods can have a restorative and therapeutic effect on the mind. And environmental volunteering, including tree planting, can be as effective as aerobics in improving fitness: independent evaluation of BTCV’s Green Gym concluded that overall the physical health status of their volunteers had significantly improved, with 99% of participants reporting enhanced health and confidence.
Being outdoors can also facilitate stress reduction which helps the body reach a more balanced state; help a patient summon up their own inner healing resources, and provide staff with a needed retreat from the stress of work
"There is also research evidence indicating that woodlands help the healing process, and we will be pursuing this with various initiatives where patients can make use of the area." (Spokesperson for the hospital Trust).
A manager’s perspective
A spokesperson for the Hospital Trust, said:
"We wanted to reverse the trend of previous years where parts of the woodland had been lost to new buildings, to ensure that what remains of the woodland is protected and made more accessible to local people and those of the hospital. The project is also key to the Trust's commitment to improve its carbon footprint."
- Some practical problems occurred at outset such as vandalism of a bench and constant stealing of canes – problems reduced as project became established and sense of ownership grew;
- It was slow to get staff and other groups interested, but this is beginning to change now;
- The woodlands must be relevant and useful to the hospital community and beyond, and to be truly successful, the woodland should form part of the hospitals identity;
- The team must learn from what it has done so far and in the future will ensure that it evaluates progress and shares experiences.
Sharon Hosegood (Managing Director, D F Clark Bionomique Ltd).
Tel: 01621 740876 www.dfclark.co.uk
Picture credits: D.F Clark