Why a focus on arts and health should be a fundamental part of every NHS strategy | Lord Howarth and Rob WebsterSAVE ITEM29/01/2018 11:04:34
Integrating arts and culture into NHS plans will both save and change lives, write Lord Haworth and Rob Webster.
“Creative Minds not only saved my life, it gave me a life”. I first heard Debs Taylor, a peer project development worker, tell me this at a conference on social prescribing. In one sentence, she captured why a focus on the arts and health should be a fundamental part of every NHS plan and strategy.
We are all beguiled by individual stories, but the call for evidence and scalability is never far behind. Fortunately, if you are a chief executive of an NHS trust, you will shortly receive an important report on arts and health, with a letter from me and Lord Howarth of Newport, the co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing.
I strongly recommend that colleagues study this report and think seriously about its implications – you can download Creative health: The arts for health and wellbeing on the all-party group’s website. It shows that the arts can offer significant support in the pursuit of NHS strategies.
The report is the outcome of a two-year inquiry by the group. Its three key messages are:
Since its launch in 2011, it has delivered over 250 creative projects in partnership with over 100 community organisations and has benefited more than 20,000 people. We were delighted when Creative Minds received the 2014 Health Service Journal Award for Compassionate Care. We have worked with organisations as diverse as Hoot Creative Arts, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Phoenix FM.
The report provides impressive evidence and personal testaments. I was struck by the story of Russell, who participated in an arts on prescription programme, following a stroke and the collapse of his business and personal life. He is now painting regularly and says: “I find that as long as I can paint I can cope. It doesn’t mean that depression has gone but I no longer have to keep going back to my GP for anti-depressants.” The report demonstrates that arts interventions can reduce demand for GP and hospital appointments and medication.
However, there are barriers to progress. Arts in health work is often short term and not available consistently across the country. The report makes a powerful case for arts and culture to contribute to the wider health and social care agenda, helping people to live healthier lives.
The ten recommendations in Creative health, if implemented, will clearly support the aims set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View, for example around health inequalities, care variation and finances.
The publication of this blog post coincides with a meeting in Parliament on how to carry forward recommendations three and four of the report:
He rightly highlights the need for culture change at different levels in the system. We need to raise awareness of the benefits, encourage innovative commissioning and find ways to enable more partnerships to develop and be sustained.
You may be aware of excellent arts in health work already being delivered in your part of the country or wish to find out about local opportunities for partnership working. Sustainability and transformation partnerships offer an opportunity for us to work more effectively with local arts and cultural providers on shared goals for our local population. Integrating arts and culture into our strategies for health and social care will save lives and change lives.
Lord Howarth of Newport CBE is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing. Rob Webster is chief executive of South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and leads the West Yorkshire sustainability and transformation partnership. Follow him and the trust on Twitter: @NHS_RobW @allofusinmind
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