Blue Prescribing

Blue Prescribing is a nature-based form of social prescribing that supports people experiencing poor mental health by getting them outside and enjoying the benefits of wetland nature.

Blue Prescribing is a form of nature prescribing that is part of a growing health practice called social prescribing, which enables health care professionals and GPs to refer people to local, non-clinical services to improve health and wellbeing and make better use of community resources – like local natural spaces.

WWT’s Blue Prescribing Project is a wetland health programme, that promotes a range of mental and physical health benefits through facilitated wetland nature engagement.

In partnership with The Mental Health Foundation, we have delivered courses over several weeks that enable people to be active, take notice of wildlife and connect with other people in wetland settings.

While we are not currently offering courses at our sites, you can find support for mental health here for services and organisations that can directly help people experiencing mental health problems.

Find out more Three people with their backs to the camera, looking over a wetland

The challenge

Infographic highlighting that 1 in 4 people in England experience poor mental health each year, that poor mental health accounts for 40% of GP appointments and that it costs the NHS £34bn a year, with the wider economic, social and health costs accounting for £105bn a year
See references 1-3 below

The wellbeing crisis in the UK is only getting worse with more than two-thirds of UK adults by 2020 reporting worries about the effects of Covid-19 on their lives4. At the same time the pandemic has highlighted the health and wellbeing benefits associated with spending time in nature.

However, constrained by capacity and limited options, mainstream NHS services are struggling to meet this demand with 70-75% of people with a diagnosable mental health problem receiving no treatment at all5.

Access to nature – and wetlands – is very unequal in the UK, with few wetlands easily accessible.

What we are doing

It’s clear more support options are needed to meet this growing need, especially ones that harness the wellbeing benefits associated with spending time in nature. Our research shows that WWT’s Blue Prescribing is an effective healthcare option for people living with anxiety and depression.

Our science and the feedback from participants tells us that Blue Prescriptions work, that they are cost effective and that the participants love them and want more.

Dr Jonathan Reeves, Principal Research Officer (Health & Wellbeing), WWT

We are also providing evidence of the economic benefit of nature prescribing, with our research showing that every £1 spent on WWT Blue Prescribing and wider activities at WWT Steart, yielded £9.30 of ‘social value’ for participants.

Our Blue Prescribing project sits within our wider work or ambitions to level up and reduce inequalities by enabling greater access to nature for those that need it most. Better health outcomes are associated with access to blue and green spaces, yet one in three people currently have no access to nature within a 15-minute walk, with lack of access concentrated amongst the poorest urban and ethnic communities.

"By focusing on the wildlife, it clears your mind of everything else and stops you thinking about what’s worrying you. You go away feeling light-hearted and refreshed."

Blue Prescriptions course participant

WWT landmarks


WWT Slimbridge pilot is conducted and the research is published.


Partnership with Mental Health Foundation begins.


The Blue Prescribing Project PhD with the University of Exeter begins.


The Blue Prescribing Project team work with the University of Exeter’s Nature On Prescription project to trial new nature prescribing guidance.


The Blue Prescribing Project at WWT Steart Marshes begins.


Development of anonline nature-based, mental health self-management course begins.


The Blue Prescribing Project at WWT London Wetland Centre begins.


Delivery of wellbeing activities throughout the year at WWT Steart and London Wetland centre supporting around 250 people.


Publication of Social Return on Investment (SROI) evaluation of Blue Prescribing at WWT Steart Marshes.