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Nature classes helping patients stay connected to the outdoors awarded Big Lottery funding

Nature-themed classes helping community hospital patients stay connected to the outside world has been awarded Big Lottery Community Funding due to its success.

The sessions, called Grow4it, encourages psychological wellbeing and social contact through interactive nature activities including the study of animals and nature-themed games and quizzes.

Isa Lamb, who runs the sessions as part of her social enterprise King’s Garden, was delivering sessions at Denbigh Community Hospital and Holywell Community Hospital until the pandemic forced the sessions to end last March.

By implementing strict infection prevention measures including social distancing, decontamination of session materials and keeping patients safe in a small controlled group, Isa was able restart nature study sessions in Holywell Community Hospital in September 2020.

Isa said: “During the pandemic the project proved to be a bit of a lifeline to patients as Grow4it supported them to remain connected to the world outside their window. That round of funding for sessions at Holywell Community Hospital completed in June 2021 but the sessions have continued with the support of the hospitals ‘Good Companions’, a community volunteer-led group.

“Ffynnon Ward have incorporated the sessions into their rehabilitation programme and it’s now a popular weekly event.”

The new Big Lottery Community Funding will support Grow4it to be delivered in person to Colwyn Bay Community Hospital for one year, whilst developing an additional virtual element for both Holywell and Colwyn Bay.

Isa will work with dementia support workers and patients at both community hospitals to design and create their own virtual sessions, for patients to access at their bed sides any time they want.

Sessions can help reduce boredom among patients, promotes wellbeing and socialisation, as well as helps stimulate interest, activity and conversation, and are a distraction from physical and psychological pain.

Isa added: “No patient will have to miss out and virtual sessions can be used any time, day or night. It is hoped the virtual sessions will add longevity to the in-person sessions and extend their reach and benefits. It’s that therapeutic benefit that I support patients to connect with and the engagement of the patients has a natural overspill to the staff.”

The sessions provide an opportunity for therapy in a less formal setting, encouraging cognitive exercise and conversation between participants.

Rebecca McConnell, Ward Sister at Holywell Community Hospital, said: “The sessions have been really well received by our patients. We’ve had to be really careful and strict with our infection prevention measures since last spring, which has included restricted and controlled visiting.

“These sessions are really important to help patients cope with their time spent in hospital and to promote a feeling of normality and engagement at a time when we are less connected than ever before.”

Isa has been holding taster sessions at Colwyn Community Hospital, Elizabeth Anderson, Dementia Support Worker, said: “Patients leave uplifted and eager to tell their fellow patients in the ward what they have learnt. Being in hospital means that elderly patients have limited access to the outdoors, a lot of these patients adore their gardens and embrace being outside. It’s really quite hard to describe their faces and how much these sessions are well loved.

“Our patients are so enthusiastic to attend that some have to be told they can’t attend due to popularity, so receiving the virtual side of these wonderful sessions they wouldn’t have to miss out, and could be used for patients unable to get out of bed.”