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UCLH pilots a new Arts on Prescription initiative for outpatients

Outpatients receiving, or who had recently completed treatment at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine were referred to a 6-week mindfulness drawing course, aimed at improving wellbeing.

Mindfulness is a gentle evidence-based practice that invites people to let go of judgements and reconnect with being in the present moment. The values of mindfulness were combined with drawing exercises, to guide patients through self-expression and provide the opportunity for reflection.

Five outpatients took part in six creative sessions online, led by Frances Newman, a community artist who has been working in hospital settings for over a decade. The course was aimed at individuals living with conditions such as long-Covid, chronic fatigue, low mood / anxiety.

“I was sceptical at the beginning how this would help and that I don’t have time in my day. However, it’s been [a] really lovely experience being able to explore emotion through art […] 

I’ve managed to sit through 90 mins being distracted by it, that my level of pain and fatigue didn’t seem to be an issue.” – patient

[image: patient collage]

Patient’s main concerns and wellbeing levels were measured at baseline and follow-up, using MYCaW®, a tool for evaluating holistic approaches to supporting people, accredited by the NHS Health Systems Support Framework for Supported Self-Management.

The nature of the conditions that the patients live with led to occasions where they could not attend. However, they were committed to the course and sometimes stayed longer on sessions to “work more and to make up parts that they had missed.”

70% of patients’ self-reported concerns related to wellbeing, as well as physical and practical concerns. Combined MYCaW® scores at follow-up showed a positive change, though this was not statistically significant.

“This was a very positive project to be involved with and (despite the low attendance numbers at present) I feel has true potential to support and nourish patients’ lives in this situation, every life benefited coming.” – artist

This UCLH pilot was instigated by UCLH Arts and Heritage, and used an innovative approach of onboarding a new link worker located within the hospital setting, which aimed to explore an entirely new referral pathway for outpatients. The link worker was appointed specifically for the pilot initiative, which ran for four months, December 2021 – March 2022 – “It was clear to me that this initiative has been a long time coming”.


Dr Emily Bradfield

Independent Researcher

[Images: patients collages]

Emily Bradfield

Creative enabler & advocate of arts for social change

Independent Consultant | Researcher | Creative Capture®️

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