Flower power is back with blooming great innovation at Leeds hospital

Catherine Vowles receives silk flowers from Norah Charlesworth at St James's Hospital
Catherine Vowles receives silk flowers from Norah Charlesworth at St James's Hospital
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The health-boosting power of flowers is being brought back onto hospital wards thanks to the country’s first vending machine selling artificial blooms.

As most NHS hospitals ban real flowers in some areas, a West Yorkshire-based firm has installed the special machine in St James’s Hospital in Leeds.

And elderly patients at the hospital are being given free posies this weekend, in time for Mother’s Day.

Venessa Hodgson, from East Ardsley-based Country Baskets, said: “We really appreciate the concerns around taking fresh flowers on to wards, especially on certain highly sensitive or quick turnaround wards.

“But there are real, proven benefits to giving flowers to people who are stressed, unwell or feeling down and we think it’s really important that those benefits are not ignored – especially when our research has shown that people think that artificial flowers are looking increasingly like real flowers and there is more choice than ever with the types of silk flowers available.”

The vending machine is currently at an elderly care ward in Gledhow Wing at St James’s, with the hope that after this weekend it can be permanently located on the site and that the machines could be rolled out across the country.

Kay Lawton, deputy facilities manager at St James’s, said: “Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has a ban on fresh flowers across many of our wards and though we have good reason to do so, we are really excited about this campaign. We believe that silk flowers are a truly brilliant way to provide the holistic benefits that flowers can give to our patients whilst combatting some of the health and safety issues.”

Health bosses may ban real flowers for a variety of reasons.

A poll found that 92 per cent of NHS hospitals don’t allow real blooms on some wards, with reasons including the risk of triggering allergies in patients, causing more work for nurses, lack of space and fears of them or their water bringing a risk of potentially harmful infections. At Leeds Teaching Hospitals, decisions are made on a ward-by-ward basis, but a ban is in place on intensive care and high dependency units.