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Green-Fingered Team Pick Up First Success at Scotland's Biggest Gardening Show

July 09, 2009 12:00 PM

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Green-fingered staff and patients at Leverndale Hospital have celebrated their debut at Scotland’s top gardening show by picking up a bronze prize.

It was the only mental health related exhibit at this year's The Gardening Scotland event held at the Ingliston showground outside Edinburgh, and the team hope to repeat their success next year.

The entry, produced by the Acorn Project, a horticultural therapy project within the Forensic Mental Health Directorate for people with mental health problems and or learning difficulties, took the form of a small boat packed with colourful plants such as marigolds, geraniums and petunias.

Staff Nurse Peter Ross, one of the leaders of the gardening project, said: “One of my colleagues, enrolled nurse John Fitch, competes successfully in local shows and we thought it was time to literally push the boat out a little bit.

“When we were accepted we discussed ideas with some of the patients and came up with the boat idea.”

Peter, John, staff nurse Gerry Lawther and colleagues nursing assistant Allan McArthur and staff nurse John Glancy, then found plans for a boat from the internet.

Using plywood and cable ties, staff and patients quickly built their boat and then chose their plants.

Peter went on: “Around 20 different patients were involved at various stages and everybody worked to their strengths, for example some patients were involved in measuring different sections, and this helped them with their numeracy skills.”

The Acorn Project was launched in 2003 and its aims include providing and facilitating occupation, rehabilitation, raise self-esteem, and provide physical exercise.

It is popular not only with staff and patients but has gained a following amongst the local community who visit on a regular basis to buy plants grown on the hospital site and all proceeds are re-invested into patient services.


Some of the vegetables are also used for patient meals and cookery groups.

Since the launch staff and patients have built three polytunnels at Leverndale, and an outside contractor has built one a45 ft greenhouse at the hospital and another 30 ft greenhouse at Rowanbank Clinic, the modern medium secure care mental health hospital on the Stobhill Hospital site. There is also an allotment close to Leverndale.

The project caters for a wide cross section of patients with varying physical abilities and security needs.

Peter added: “Particular efforts are made to engage individuals who are deemed difficult to engage either as a result of the chronic nature of their illness or challenging behaviour.

“It can take weeks or even months before some patients get involved at a small level.”

The project has a robust referral process which requires the agreement of the multi-disciplinary team responsible for the patient’s care and treatment, and there is also a strong emphasis on health and safety.

Comprehensive risk assessments are carried out to ensure that each activity assigned to an individual is appropriate.

Summing up the benefits to patients, Peter said: “It has been the experience of both project staff and multi-disciplinary teams that patients seem to be benefiting from attending the project.

“Differences in behaviour, motivation, sleep patterns and use of ‘as required’ medications have been noted in some patients.

“Patients have also been heard to comment that ‘it’s a delight to work there’, ‘it’s a worthwhile service’, and ‘it’s good just to get out of the ward.’”

Ann Hawkins, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Director of Mental Health Partnership, said: “The work of the horticultural project is excellent and this is another excellent practical example of how mental health services can tackle stigma by raising awareness at events such as this.

“The forensic directorate cares for some of the most disenfranchised people within our community and it is encouraging to see that despite this, there is a real commitment to involving the patients in such positive and fulfilling activities.

“Both patients and staff benefit from it and their recent award was well deserved. I have seen this project go from strength to strength over recent years and I am pleased that it has had such a positive impact on the lives of patients.”

For more information contact NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Communications on 0141 201 4429.
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