Major new report on health benefits of the Arts released

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPGAHW) have released the findings of a major new inquiry into practice and research in the arts in health and social care, with a view to making recommendations to improve policy and practice.

The report, Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, presents the findings of two years of research, evidence-gathering and discussions with patients, health and social care professionals, artists and arts administrators, academics, people in local government, ministers, other policy-makers and parliamentarians from both Houses of Parliament.

Key findings included visual and performing arts in healthcare environments helping to reduce sickness, anxiety and stress; music therapy reduces agitation and need for medication in 67% of people with dementia; a social return on investment of between £4 and £11 has been calculated for every £1 invested in arts on prescription; and an arts-on-prescription project showing a 37% drop in GP consultation rates and a 27% drop in hospital admissions, saving £216 per patient.

Although the report focuses on NHS services and the Arts Council in England, it contains a number of key recommendations which are relevant and could be incorporated across the UK:

    • That those responsible for NHS New Models of Care and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships ensure that arts and cultural organisations are involved in the delivery of health and wellbeing at regional and local level.
    • That the Secretaries of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Health, Education and Communities and Local Government develop and lead a cross-governmental strategy to support the delivery of health and wellbeing through the arts and culture.
    • That, at board or strategic level, in each clinical commissioning group, NHS trust, local authority and health and wellbeing board, an individual is designated to take responsibility for the pursuit of institutional policy for arts, health and wellbeing.
    • That leaders from within the arts, health and social care sectors, together with service users and academics, establish a strategic centre, at national level, to support the advance of good practice, promote collaboration, coordinate and disseminate research and inform policy and delivery, with an appeal to philanthropic funders to support this endeavour.
    • That Arts Councils supports arts and cultural organisations in making health and wellbeing outcomes integral to their work and identifies health and wellbeing as a priority in its 10-year strategy for 2020–2030.
    • That the NHS support clinical commissioning groups, NHS provider trusts and local authorities to incorporate arts on prescription into their commissioning plans and to redesign care pathways where appropriate.
    • That Healthwatch, the Patients Association and other representative organisations, along with arts and cultural providers, work with patients and service users to advocate the health and wellbeing benefits of arts engagement to health and social care professionals and the wider public.
    • That the education of clinicians, public health specialists and other health and care professionals includes accredited modules on the evidence base and practical use of the arts for health and wellbeing outcomes.
    • That Research Councils UK and individual research councils consider an interdisciplinary, cross-council research funding initiative in the area of participatory arts, health and wellbeing.
    • That the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence regularly examines evidence as to the efficacy of the arts in benefiting health, and, where the evidence justifies it, includes in its guidance the use of the arts in healthcare.

The report also contains health themed illustrations by artist David Shrigley, podcasts and videos with service users and experts, and four policy briefings from the APPGAHW.

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