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‘GPs should offer arts on prescription’, report claims

The Arts Council of Wales is to explore whether theatre can make a contribution to people's well-being. Photo: Shutterstock Social prescribing enables GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer patients to creative activities as a non-clinical alternative to treatment. Photo: Shutterstock
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The arts should be offered on prescription by the NHS more as an alternative to more traditional methods of primary care, it has been suggested.

A study by the Arts Council of Wales calls for specific research to look into what needs to be happen so that “a more comprehensive ‘arts on prescription’ offer is embedded and available across Wales”.

Social prescribing enables GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer patients to creative activities as a non-clinical alternative to treatment, particularly for people experiencing mental health problems and social isolation.

Arts in health activities include dance classes, professionally led arts workshops other participatory arts work or attending performances.

The NHS and Welsh Government are increasingly exploring ways to relieve pressure on primary care, the report says.

The document, called Arts and Health in Wales: A Mapping Study of Current Activity, claims that 20% of patients visit GPs for primarily welfare, rather than medical, problems and adds that social prescribing is a “growing and live area of interest”.

Arts on prescription schemes are already being implemented in some areas of the UK, and the report references research by the University of Westminster, which found that social prescribing led to a 28% reduction in demand for GP services and falls in patients requiring repeat care after 12 and 18 months.

The report recommends that each of Wales’ seven health boards appoints a designated, full-time coordinator for arts and health, and affirms the Arts Council’s commitment to working with trusts and foundations to support arts in health activities.

Last year, the Welsh NHS Confederation and the Arts Council of Wales signed a three-year memorandum of understanding, in which both parties agreed to work together to promote the benefits of culture to well-being.

Welsh Arts Council unites with NHS to promote health benefits of culture

In a foreword to the report, Arts Council chair Phil George says the body holds a “deep conviction that the arts have a particularly powerful contribution to make” to a healthy life.

“Along with colleagues working in sport and getting people physically active, we see the results in breaking through loneliness, isolation and depression. But we also know the way in which the imaginative and emotionally expressive experiences of the arts can make a distinctive and versatile contribution,” he adds.

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