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Arts and Health – A Vital Link

Written by Dave Cookson, 16th June 2011

Tim Joss, Director of the Rayne Foundation, recently wrote an article published in the Arts Professional magazine. Joss argues the arts are an excellent tool in improving health and welfare before adding more NHS Trusts and commissioning agencies should take this link more seriously.

Joss refers to a perception of the use of the arts in health services as something to be commended, but low priority. This means organisations such as ourselves sometimes have to turn to third parties for our work in health settings, despite its obvious positive effects.

This magazine article echoes what our own staff working in health environments have said recently. At a recent Mersey Care conference, TRO's Eleanor McCann argued that cultural practices in health settings should be considered 'integral' rather than 'additional'. In her recent article, Katie Clark spoke of the positive impact Get Into Reading has had on people suffering from dementia:

...the power of language and the rhythms of poetry can soothe and calm, and also remove barriers in bringing people together.

Our ongoing work just goes to show how effective reading aloud together is. Not just with people who regularly use health services, but people in community groups, looked after children, prisoners and many more people have experienced numerous positives following TRO's participation in their lives.

Joss says that in order for the arts to be given more opportunities in health care environments, research must be expanded so that funders can see quantifiable, results-based evidence of impact. The culture of research is constantly progressing amongst cultural organisations, something Joss acknowledges:

As research progresses, a shift becomes possible from grant-dependency to earned income - for services attuned to the NHS's needs and fees large enough to cover the arts organisations' costs. The Reader Organisation  is one of the leaders. It "renews the now lost sense of literature as a life-enhancing creative power". It brings groups together to share and discuss literature - from the accessible to Dante and Milton. (Although these can be accessible! - ed) It has fee income from several NHS Trusts including Merseyside's large mental health trust.

Let's hope that following Tim Joss' brilliant article other NHS Trusts begin to utilise the arts more, leading to an even better health service.


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