Farm work prescribed to Norfolk and Suffolk patients

Farm work is being offered on prescription in a trial aimed at helping patients with their rehabilitation.

GPs in Norfolk and Suffolk can refer patients with mental and physical health problems to take part in activities at a so-called care farm.

It is hoped that work in the open air will provide an alternative to traditional treatments.

Care Links Care Farm in Norfolk is believed to be the first in the UK.

It will help people with conditions such as autism and dementia and follows the example of similar schemes in Holland.

Husband and wife Doeke and Iris Dobma have set up the farm as a social enterprise in the village of Toftwood, near to Beccles in Suffolk.

"It has not been done in the UK but overseas in the Netherlands this is now common practice," said Mr Dobma.

"You can imagine the many positive aspects of this, the least to enable farmers to earn an extra income and serve their local rural communities."

The farm will also take referrals from Norfolk and Suffolk health and social care organisations and will teach skills such as growing produce, caring for livestock, working with machinery and farm management.