Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Christmas 2017: Natural Phenomena

Hospital gardens are making a comeback

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 07 December 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5627
  1. Juliet Dobson, digital content editor
  1. The BMJ
  1. jdobson{at}

Juliet Dobsonexplores how hospitals in the UK are putting evidence on the health benefits of green spaces into practice.

Visitors to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital may be in for a lovely surprise. Those who venture past the Peter Pan statue at the entrance, through the busy corridors, and into the middle of the hospital will eventually discover a little garden, secreted away from the hustle and bustle. Built on an abandoned boilerhouse roof, it is now a small retreat—quiet, peaceful, and sheltered. It is surrounded by bushes and shrubbery on all sides, with an open wooden pavilion at one end. It is overlooked by hospital wards, but when you stand in the middle of the garden you don’t feel as if you are in a hospital.

What may be a surprise today was rather more the norm in the past: Florence Nightingale was a champion of outdoor spaces, and in the 19th century hospital gardens were an important part of the therapeutic regimen. It was only after the second world war, and with the birth of the NHS, that they started to disappear. Hospitals were built for clinical effectiveness and had to house numerous specialist units, as well as provide ever more car parking spaces. The cost of managing a garden was hard to justify, and gardens were easy to write off.1

But now, hospital gardens are making a comeback, and a growing number of hospitals across the UK benefit from gardens built specifically as a therapeutic space for patients.

Horatio’s Garden

Horatio’s Garden is perhaps one of the best known hospital gardens. Horatio Chapple had the idea for the garden when he was volunteering at the Duke of Cornwall spinal treatment centre at Salisbury District Hospital. Wondering at the lack of outdoor space for patients, he decided …

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